Lot 45
  • 45

Mary Cassatt

500,000 - 700,000 USD
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  • Mary Cassatt
  • Master Robert Kelso Cassatt (Master Robert Cassatt; Master Robert K. Cassatt; Portrait of a Child; Portrait of Master Robert Kelso Cassatt)
  • oil on canvas
  • 19 3/4 by 24 1/4 inches
  • (50.2 by 61.6 cm)
  • Painted in 1882-83.


(probably) Alexander J. Cassatt (the artist’s brother), Haverford, Pennsylvania 
(probably) Robert K. Cassatt (his son), Rosemont, Pennsylvania by 1920
Alexander J. Cassatt II (his son), Cecilton, Maryland, by 1966
Robert K. Cassatt (his son), Brooksville, Maine, by 1985


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Representative Modern Artists, April-May 1920, no. 41 or 41 (as Portrait of a Child)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Mary Cassatt Memorial Exhibition, April-May 1927, no. 35 (as Portrait of Master Robert Kelso Cassatt)
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., The Paintings of Mary Cassatt: A Benefit Exhibition for the Development of the National Collection of Fine Arts, February 1966, no. 13, illustrated 
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Mary Cassatt, 1844-1926, September-November 1970, no. 27, illustrated 
Buffalo, New York, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Works by Mary Cassatt, 1978
Tokyo, Japan, Isetan Museum of Art; Nara, Japan, Nara Prefectural Museum of Art, Mary Cassatt, 1844-1926, June-August 1981, no. 17, pp. 35, 97, illustrated
New York, Coe Kerr Gallery, Mary Cassatt: An American Observer, October 1984, illustrated fig. 15 (as Master Robert Cassatt)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Mary Cassatt and Philadelphia, February-April 1985, no. 19, p. 55-56, illustrated (as Master Robert K. Cassatt)


"Philadelphia Show Honors Work of Mary Cassatt." Art News, vol. 25, May 7, 1927, p. 2 (as Portrait of Master Robert Kelso Cassatt)
Adelyn Dohme Breeskin, Mary Cassatt: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Oils, Pastels, Watercolors, and Drawings, Washington, D.C., 1970, no. 119, p. 72, illustrated
Nancy Hale, Mary Cassatt, Garden City, New York, 1975, p. 134 
Nancy Mowll Mathews, Mary Cassatt, New York, 1987, p. 63, illustrated p. 97


The canvas is lined. There is craquelure throughout. Under UV: there is no apparent inpainting.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Images of Mary Cassatt’s friends and family constitute a pivotal component of the artist’s prolific body of work. Particularly during the late 1870s and early 1880s, as she developed her now singular aesthetic and resolved to paint only the world she knew, Cassatt frequently utilized her family members as subject matter. Although she is arguably best known today for her depictions of children with their mothers, Cassatt earned significant praise during her lifetime for her images of individual children; she returned to this motif repeatedly throughout her career and explored it in a wide variety of media. By observing her young subjects in isolation from their familial context, Cassatt was able to capture the physical and psychological qualities specific to childhood and, explains Griselda Pollock, to “render visible the non-heroic, familiar, transient situations which could encode ‘domestic intimacies’ or a sense of childhood’s uncertain steps toward emergent self-consciousness, or the perpetual strangeness of the relation between adult and child enacted through a thousand tiny rituals of daily life” (Mary Cassatt: Painter of Modern Life, London, 1998, p. 23). Painted in 1882-83, Master Robert Kelso Cassatt belongs to this formative period in the artist’s career and epitomizes Cassatt’s distinctive interpretation of the Impressionist style.

The present work depicts the artist’s favorite nephew, the son of her beloved brother Alexander. Robert first bonded with his expatriate aunt during the summer of 1880, when he visited the artist and his grandparents at their rented villa in Marly, in the countryside outside of Paris. Hoping to gain the affections of Robert and his three siblings, Cassatt recruited them to serve as her models. Although the young boy apparently challenged his aunt by refusing to sit still as she attempted to depict his likeness, Cassatt grew fond of Robert in particular. She hoped for a time that he would become an artist himself, and would occasionally allow him to join her on sketching trips.

During this first visit and the annual summer trips Alexander’s family made subsequently, Cassatt painted Robert on several occasions, both with his father and unaccompanied, as in the present work (fig. 1). Here Cassatt renders Robert’s features with careful attention, accurately portraying the physical attributes of his youth. The strong draftsmanship seen in the boy's face—a focus encouraged by her friend and mentor Edgar Degas—contrasts dynamically with the bold, strikingly gestural passages of fiery red, green and blue with which she completed the background. Robert’s gaze avoids the viewer, creating the impression that Cassatt has caught him in a natural state rather than in a scene she has orchestrated. By allowing the viewer a glimpse into the subject’s—and therefore her own—private world, Cassatt imbues her composition with an arresting sense of intimacy, and blurs the distinction between the private and the public spheres.