Exhibitions: Japonisme in American Graphic Art, 1880–1920

Mary Cassatt: The Fitting

Mary Cassatt (American, 1844–1926). The Fitting, 1890–91. Drypoint and aquatint etching on off-white, moderately thick, moderately textured laid paper. Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 39.108

Among the most popular Japanese prints in the West were the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century ukiyo-e (literally “pictures of the floating world”) that depicted urban leisure pursuits, everyday life, and famous landscapes. An exhibition of more than seven hundred ukiyo-e in Paris in 1890 inspired the expatriate Impressionist Mary Cassatt to experiment with color printmaking, resulting in her most formally daring and technically ambitious works. In the manner of Japanese print series, she conceived of a set of ten images, including The Fitting, depicting the daily activities of a typical middle-class woman. While Cassatt emulated the Japanese style—evident in the flattened forms, unmodulated planes of color, and strong decorative outlines—her technique was a highly inventive combination of printing processes that garnered critical admiration in Europe and America.