The Banjo Lesson (1893-94) by Mary Cassatt

The Banjo Lesson - Mary Cassatt - 1893-94

Artwork Information

TitleThe Banjo Lesson
ArtistMary Cassatt
MediumPastel Over Oiled Pastel On Tan Wove Paper
Dimensions72.2 x 58.6 cm
Current LocationVirginia Museum Of Fine Arts, Richmond

About The Banjo Lesson

Mary Cassatt’s painting “The Banjo Lesson” is a drypoint and aquatint with monotype inking created around 1893. The piece measures plate: 11 3/4 x 9 3/8 in.; sheet: 16 1/2 x 11 1/2 in. and is located at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Cassatt, who lived in Paris since her parents moved to live with her in1877, used Impressionism style to depict a banjo lesson between an older man and a young boy.

The print proposed edition of the artwork is around forty. One of the most striking features of this piece is its colorful composition, showcasing Cassatt’s mastery of different tones to create an impressionistic blend that adds texture to figures’ faces, hands, and clothing. It highlights different shades of yellow that range from light beige to ochre in describing various items surrounding both individuals.

During this time working artists disagreed with each other on how art should be made creating numerous styles such as Impressionism which appreciated regular life captures rather than historical events or depictions arranged by commissioners. Mary’s use of monotype printing showcases technique while also representing a subject that she saw too often as absent from artistic conversations; black Americans represented realistically performing everyday activities reflecting lived realities.

Overall the monotype speaks volumes about not only family but represents an appreciation towards diverse representation bolstered by expert impressions and values considered important for clear renderings presentations lack before this style’s introduction during such time periods.

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