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Mary Cassatt, Woman on a Striped Sofa with a Dog (1876)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Woman on a Striped Sofa with a Dog (1876) by Mary Cassatt.

About the Work

Title : Woman on a Striped Sofa with a Dog
Artist : Mary Cassatt
Year : 1876
Medium :Oil on wood panel
Dimensions :41.9 x 33.3 cm (16 1/2 x 13 1/8 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Mary Cassatt & the French Academy

According to the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museums :

“This work dates to a transitional period in her career, when she was still seeking official recognition from the French Academy. The deep-red wall behind the sitter can be considered part of that effort, as this work was painted in the same year that another of Cassatt’s works was finally accepted to the Salon, after she darkened its background.”

Mary Cassatt was not the only artist in this era seeking validation from the French Academy. The Academy was known world wide to be the finest institution for artists to train under. With the power wielded by the Academy, it set high standards as to what classifies as good art. This implied that all art that did not meet the standards of the Academy, was not selected for their annual Salon exhibition, and more importantly, the artists were not considered good artist. The only way to earn money and patrons was to comply with Academic standards.

Other Details

Mary Cassatt’s Woman on a Striped Sofa with a Dog is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 2700. It is part of the museum’s collection of Impressionism and the Late Nineteenth Century -European and American Art, 19th century. The piece was a gift to the Fogg Art Museum in  1961.

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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