About This Artwork

Mary Cassatt (American, 1844-1926)
printed with Leroy (French, active 1876-1900)

The Letter, 1890/91

Color aquatint with drypoint, from three plates, on off-white laid paper
345 x 211 mm (image/plate); 437 x 297 mm (sheet)
Inscribed recto, lower right, below image, in graphite: "Imprim[ée] par l'artiste et Mr. Leroy / Mary Cassatt / (25 épreuves)"

Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1932.1282

Mary Cassatt began a series of color prints in 1890 that exemplify her indebtedness to Japanese color woodblock prints and her thematic focus on figures in interiors. In The Letter, Cassatt used the patterns of the woman's dress and wallpaper as well as vibrant printing inks to manipulate space and formal elements inspired by Japanese art. The subject matter reflects the artist's focus on women indoors because contemporary social mores restricted their activities outside the home.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Baltimore Museum of Art, "Mary Cassatt," January 7-February 10, 1936, p. 13, cat. 27.

Portland, Maine, Portland Museum of Art, "Miss Mary Cassatt: Impressionist from Philadelphia," May 17-July 1, 1979.

Williamstown, Mass., Williams College Museum of Art, "Mary Cassatt: The Color Prints," November 25, 1989-January 21, 1990, p. 124, cat. 8-IV

The Art Institute of Chicago, January 27, 1993-January 16, 1994.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman," October 10, 1998-January 10, 1999, pp. 281 and 323, cat. 59 (ill.).

Smart Museum of Art, "Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints", October 4, 2012 - January 20, 2013, pp. 120-121, fig. 99, cat. 51, cat. by Chelsea Foxwell et. al.

Publication History

The Art Institute of Chicago Bulletin XXVII (1933), p. 40 (ill.).

Adelyn D. Breeskin, The Graphic Work of Mary Cassatt (New York, 1948), p. 73, no. 146.

Nancy Mowll Matthews and Barbara Stern Shapiro, Mary Cassatt: The Color Prints, exh. cat. (New York, 1989), p. 124, cat. 8-IV.

Diane De Grazia and Carter E. Foster (editors), Master Drawings from the Cleveland Musesum of Art, exh. cat. (Cleveland, 2000), p. 214, fig. 1.

Masterworks of American Painting at the De Young (San Francisco, 2005).

Pamela Norris, Words of Love: Passionate Women from Heloise to Sylvia Plath (London, 2006).

Ownership History

The artist to Durand-Ruel [Chicago 1998]. Albert Roullier, Chicago [Chicago 1998]. Given by Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson, Chicago, to the Art Institute, 1932.

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