Children Playing on the Beach, 1884 by Mary Stevenson Cassatt


Children Playing on the Beach, 1884


Mary Stevenson Cassatt

Ref GM3382
Type Fine Art Print
Image Size 12" x 16" (30 x 40 cm)
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By the time Cassatt exhibited this painting at the eighth and final impressionist exhibition in 1886, her reputation as a painter of mothers and children had been well established. Her interest in Japanese prints and the process of printmaking can be seen in much of her work after 1883, including Children Playing on the Beach. In this work, Cassatt tightly cropped the scene, tilted the picture plane forward, and reduced the number of objects in the background to draw attention to the two little girls digging in the sand. Absorbed in their activity, they embody the naturalistic attitude prevalent in both art and literature of the time. Various shades of blue—from the deep electric blue of the dress and shoes to the soft, diffused blue of the ocean—are used throughout the work. Accents of white convey the presence of sunlight bouncing off the dresses, hats, and pails of the little girls. Aspects of the painting suggest that it is a nostalgic tribute to Cassatt's beloved sister, Lydia, who died in 1882. Without revealing the identity of the little girls specifically, Cassatt depicted them in a manner that implies that they are related. Playing close together, the girls are comfortable with each other's presence. By positioning them side by side in nearly identical outfits, Cassatt established both a compositional and psychological relationship between the two figures. This work, therefore, holds a place of singular importance within her oeuvre.