Little Girl in a Blue Armchair

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Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878

It's not your traditional children's portrait. Instead, Mary Cassatt's Little Girl in a Blue Armchair depicts a more realistic alternative to a traditional portrait. Sitting still for more than thirty minutes is a serious challenge for anyone, especially children, thus sitting as still as a statue for hours must have seemed ridiculous. This makes for a stiff portraiture, one that's boring for both the subject and the viewer. Cassatt, instead, decides to paint her subject as she really was: a normal kid.

Mary Cassatt was born into a upper-middle class American family in Pennsylvania. She traveled often, living in France for most of her life, and was a well-educated and well-rounded individual. It was more than likely that Cassatt herself knew exactly how her subject felt. Painting, for women, the upper class especially, was intended as nothing more than a hobby to make them appear more attractive to suitors. It was something to be flaunted, just as this portrait would have been something the little girl's parents could flaunt. She almost seems swallowed up by the large, blue armchair, her existence synonymous with that of the furniture.

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