Mary Cassatt VS Kenyon Cox

The painter Mary Cassatt is often discussed as an American artist who, at the end of the nineteenth century, became intimately involved with the European Impressionists and strongly recommended them to American collectors. Her work often focuses on the depiction of informal domestic life. Compare the domestic scene featured in her Mother and Child of 1905 with the idyllic scene depicted in Kenyon Cox’s Eclogue, from 1890. What are the differences in the themes of these paintings? How does the choice of styles — Impressionism by Cassatt and Realism by Cox — fit with the content of each painting? How do you think the gender of the painters informs their choice of themes and treatments?
Mary Cassatt chooses a more serious subject matter in her painting “Mother and Child”. Cassatt was known for showing this type of instructional task oriented nurturing of women as it was considered their role. This is also reinforced as both subjects in the portrait are not smiling, but rather have more of a somber gaze. She also is committed to displaying the social expectation of women in society, but painting scenes of standard female behavior. Her commitment to her impressionistic style creates an interesting contrast to her conservative social view. The color pallet creates a rather flat background and allows the artist to bring the subject forward with the lighter tones. The use of the mirrors and created reflections also aid in creating greater dimension in the piece. Kenyon Cox is a great contrast to Mary Cassatt. One of the biggest issues is subject matter. Cox and the exposure to “the Aesthetic Movement of the 1870’s and 1880’s in Europe” had drawn his attention to study and paint female nudes. Americans at this time did not paint nude subjects (Pohl, 2002). He also was encouraged not just to paint what he saw, but create am emotional reaction to his still life. It is interesting that Cox paints in a realistic style when he is working more toward an emotional response. 

In Coxes, “Eclogue” a cluster of nude female figures has been gathered on the right portion of the canvas, which was considered an inappropriate sexual overtone at this time. Cox has attempted to create more youthful and innocent look to the figures to remove the erotic feel created by the revealed flesh of the figures. A male figure is seen entering the scene from the left walking toward the women “confirming the purpose of this display of female flesh” (Pohl, 2002). 

Cassatt and Cox are similar in the fact that they both choose to paint women as their subject matter. However, Cassatt places “ her women are often engaged in a particular domestic activity, caring for children” while Cox paints a scene of erotic emotional responses. (Pohl, 2002). They both choose to paint in styles that in my opinion seen to contrast their intention of their piece. In this case both paintings do reveal nudity, but Cassatt defiantly has her subject in context of innocence.

Mother and Child
(Art 6 Lecture 18, 2001)
Title: Mother and Child
Date: 1905
Artist:Mary Cassatt

Medium: oil on canvas
Size: 36 1/4 x 29 in.

(Kenyon Cox, 2011)
Title: An Eclogue
Date: 1890
Artist: Kenyon Cox

Medium: oil on canvas
Size: 48 1/4 x 60 1/2 in.

Work Cited
"Art 6 Lecture 18." Welcome to the Slide Projector an Instructional Website for Denise Johnson's Art History Students. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. .

"Kenyon Cox, Eclogue, 1890." Beautiful Century. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. .
Pohl, Frances K. Framing America: a Social History of American Art. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2002. 270-271, 299. Print.