Lot 44
  • 44

Mary Cassatt 1845-1926

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  • Mary Cassatt
  • Two Sisters
  • signed Mary Cassatt, u.l.
  • pastel on paper
  • 14 3/4 by 21 in.
  • (37.5 by 53.3 cm)
  • Executed in 1896.


Mrs. J. Cameron Bradley
Sale: Parke-Bernet, New York, December 11, 1947, lot 166, illustrated
Albert Otten
Edward A. Bragaline
Mr. and Mrs. Lester Francis Avnet, Great Neck, New York, by 1969
Kennedy Galleries, New York


Pasadena, California, Pasadena Art Institute, Mary Cassatt and her Parisian Friends, 1951, no. 16
Omaha, Nebraska, Joslyn Art Museum, Mary Cassatt Among the Impressionists, April-June 1969, no. 22, p. 40, illustrated


Artist, vol. 47, June 3, 1954, p. 80
Art Quarterly, vol. 27, no. 4, 1964, p. 542
Adelyn Dohme Breeskin, Mary Cassatt: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Oils, Pastels, Watercolors, and Drawings, Washington, D.C., 1970, no. 259, p. 122, illustrated, also illustrated in color p. 123

Catalogue Note

In 1877, at the invitation of her friend Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt became the only  American artist to join the French Impressionist group working in Paris.  Cassatt particularly admired Degas’ work in pastel and his constructive criticism and continual efforts to introduce her to new techniques had a profound effect on Cassatt’s development into a mature artist.  She wrote to her friend Louisine Havemeyer around 1915, “How well I remember nearly forty years ago seeing for the first time Degas’s pastels in the window of a picture dealer in the Boulevard Haussman.   I would go there and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art.  It changed my life.  I saw art then as I wanted to see it” (Louisine. W. Havemeyer, Sixteen to Sixty, 1993, p. 275)  Like Degas, Cassatt became increasingly captivated with the pastel medium and by the 1890s it had become her primary means of expression.  Pastel allowed Cassatt to demonstrate her natural ability as a draughtsman while exploring dimensions of color and tone.

Two Sisters is one of two pastels executed in 1896 which features the same two unidentified sisters in an intimate moment.  Cassatt’s pastels of the 1890s focused largely on scenes of mothers and children but as Nancy Mowll Mathews notes, “friendship was [also] celebrated many times in Cassatt’s work of this period.  From the drypoint of two young girls pouring over a document on the table to the pastel called The Conversation, or Two Sisters, these works have the same psychological intimacy as her depictions of mother and child.  Poses and gestures that bespeak taking comfort from the presence of another are natural in both themes.  The subject of female closeness was treated by other Impressionists, particularly Degas…In an age when female subject matter was favored, this was an attractive motif since it showed not one but two fashionably dressed women” (Mary Cassatt, New York, 1987, p. 109-10).  The fully opened fan, an elegant and colorful element favored by the Impressionists, adds a decorative splash to this composition of two obviously stylish sisters.