About This Artwork

Mary Cassatt
American, 1844–1926

On a Balcony, 1878/79

Oil on canvas
89.9 x 65.2 cm (35 1/2 x 25 5/8 in.)
Signed lower left: "Mary Cassatt"

Gift of Mrs. Albert J. Beveridge in memory of her aunt, Delia Spencer Field, 1938.18

During Mary Cassatt's early Impressionist period, she frequently focused on the activities of middle-class women in society—at the theater or taking tea, for example. At first glance, the arresting painting On a Balcony, which was shown in the 1880 Impressionist exhibition, appears to depict a woman in a public setting. However, the blue rail of the balcony, visible near the top of the painting, defines the enclosed space of a private garden, while the woman's morning dress further indicates the intimacy of her location. Cassatt signaled the modernity of her subject through the woman's choice of reading material; she peruses a newspaper rather than a novel. Even at home Cassatt's subjects are connected to the contemporary world, not lost in a fictional fantasy.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Fifth Impressionist Exhibition, 1880.

New York City, Durand-Ruel Galleries, Exhibition of Paintings and Pastels by Mary Cassatt, Nov. 5-21, 1903, cat. 10, as Femme Lisant dans un Jardin.

Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Fifth Exhibition Oil Paintings by Contemporary American Artists, Dec. 15, 1914-Jan. 24, 1915, cat. 73, as Woman Reading in a Garden.

San Francisco, Department of Fine Arts, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, June 2-Sept. 6, 1915, cat. 3006, as Woman Reading in a Garden.

Worcester Art Museum, Mass., Exhibition of Paintings by Modern French masters, lent by Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, New York, Dec. 2-30, 1917, cat. 1, as Woman Reading in a Garden.

New York City, Durand-Ruel Galleries, Exhibition of Paintings and Pastels by Mary Cassatt, Nov. 15-Dec. 4, 1920, cat. 8.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Memorial Exhibition of Works of Mary Cassatt, Apr. 30-May 30, 1927, cat. 27, as Portrait of the Artist’s Sister, Miss Lydia Cassatt in a Garden, 1881.

Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, A Memorial Exhibition of the Work of Mary Cassatt, Mar. 15-Apr. 15, 1928, cat. 7 as Girl Reading in a Garden, or cat. 44, as Woman Reading.

Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Survey of American Painting, Oct. 24-Dec. 15, 1940, cat. 199.

Decatur Art Center, Ill., Masterpieces of European and American Art, Mar. 4-25, 1945, cat. 2.

Springfield Art Association, Ill., Masterpieces of European and American Art, April 4-30, 1945, cat. 2.

Pasadena Art Institute, Mary Cassatt and her Parisian Friends, Oct. 16-Dec. 2, 1951, cat. 1.

Utica, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Expatriates: Whistler, Cassatt, Sargent, Jan. 4 –25, 1953, cat. 18.

Art Institute of Chicago, Sargent, Whistler and Mary Cassatt, Jan. 14-Feb. 25, 1954, cat. 10; traveled to New York City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mar. 24-May 23, 1954.

Grand Rapids Art Gallery, Mich., Cassatt, Whistler, Sargent Exhibition, Sept. 15-Oct. 15, 1955, cat. 5.

Palm Beach, Society of the Four Arts, John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt, Mar. 7-Apr. 5, 1959, cat. 39.

Art Gallery of Toronto, American Painting, 1865-1905, Jan. 6-Feb. 5, 1961, cat. 7; traveled to New York City, Whitney Museum of American Art, May 17-June 18, 1961.

South Hadley, Mass., Mount Holyoke College, Women Artists in America Today, Apr. 10-30, 1962, cat. 1.

Albi, France, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Trésors Impressionnistes du Musée de Chicago, June 27-Aug. 31, 1980, cat. 43.

New York City, Coe Kerr Gallery, Mary Cassatt, An American Observer, Oct. 3-27, 1984, fig. 1.

Art Institute of Chicago, Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman, Oct. 13, 1998-Jan. 10, 1999, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Feb. 14-May 9, 1999, Washington D.C., National Gallery, June 6-Sept. 6, 1999, cat. 13.

Publication History

“The Cover,” Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago 32, 4 (Apr./May 1938), p. 58, cover, ill.

“Chicago: Two American Impressionist Works for the Art Institute,” Art News 36, 35 (May 28, 1938), p. 20 (ill.)

“Carnegie Institute Presents Great Survey of American Painting,” Art Digest 15, 35 (May 28, 1938), p. 20 (ill.)

Forbes Watson, “The Land of the Free,” Magazine of Art 33, 11 (Nov. 1940), p. 622 (ill.).

Margaret Breuning, Mary Cassatt, (New York, Hyperion Press, 1944) p. 20 (ill.).

Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 1961), p. 69.

Frederick A. Sweet, “Paintings and Pastels by Mary Cassatt in the Collections of the Art Institute and in Chicago Collections,” Museum Studies 2 (The Art Institute of Chicago, 1967), pp. 33-49 (ill.).

Adelyn D. Breeskin, Mary Cassatt, A Catalogue Raisonné, (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1970) cat. 94.

Judith A. Barter et al., American Arts at The Art Institute of Chicago: From Colonial Times to World War I (Art Institute of Chicago, 1998), pp. 262-65, no. 127.

Judith A. Barter et al, The Age of American Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2011), no. 21.

Ownership History

The artist; Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, by 1922; Mrs. Albert J. Beveridge, 1922; given to the Art Institute, 1938.

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