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The Barker Code
of Color/Fabric Representation

Museum Masterpieces

The Child's Bath

Homage to “The Child's Bath”, by Mary Cassatt (2015) mixed media, 19 x 24.

“The Child's Bath” (39 ½ x 26) is an oil on canvas done in 1893. It was given to the Art Institute of Chicago by the Robert A Waller fund, in 1910.

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was born in Pennsylvania but spent most of her adult life in France.

Briefly described: “The Child’s Bath” shows a mother washing the feet of her young daughter. The child sits on her mother’s lap wrapped in a white towel, her right arm holding on to her mother’s knee behind her and her two bare legs hanging down into the basin of water. The mother is wearing a striped dress that covers from her neck to her feet. She is seated on a low stool as she holds the child with her left hand and washes one foot with her right hand. Behind them is the hint of green wallpaper with a floral print and a green dresser with flowers across the front. The carpet has a red geometric pattern and covers the lower part of the picture. At the lower right is a large white pitcher and in the lower center is the white basin filled with water.

More about the painting: The picture shows the influence of the impressionist movement, and Mary Cassatt’s studies of the Japanese woodblock prints. She used busy, bold patterns both behind and below the mother and child, filling the canvas with color and patterns from top to bottom. Which, plus the unusual perspective, looking down on the pair, make this an unusual, stunning piece.

More about Mary Cassatt: Mary Cassatt knew from teenage years that she wanted to be a professional artist. Her family discouraged her but by 1866 she had persuaded her mother to move with her to Paris, France and study there. Women were not well accepted and the paintings she finished did not receive much public exposure. Edgar Degas became her friend and tutor for a while and in the 1890’s she finally became known for her delicate pictures of mothers and babies. She was a feminist and a suffragette. Mary painted until 1914 when she was blind from cataracts, and suffered diabetes, rheumatism and neuralgia.

SallyB’s comments: This was a very difficult piece with the different colors/fabrics in the background. Putting the stripes in the dress was very time consuming. Fabric does not curve as easily as the picture shows the draping of the dress.