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The Child's Bath, by Mary Cassatt

The Child's Bath by Mary Cassatt, courtesy Art Institute of Chicago

Mary Cassatt was born in America in 1844. After attending the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, she studied and worked in France. She is regarded as one of the Impressionists, and painted with artists like Renoir and Monet. The Impressionists liked to paint people in everyday situations. At the suggestion of her friend, the French artist Degas, she began to paint women and children. She often used the members of her family as models for her paintings. Mary Cassatt is now known for her paintings of women and children. She was a painter, a pastellist, and also made prints inspired by Japanese artists.

"The Child's Bath" is in the Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago®. The Art Institute® has information on this painting in the ArtAccess section of their website.

Questions to Ask

What is the first thing that you see? This is the focal point. The focal point is what first draws your eye, something that stands out.

What is this picture about? How does bathtime now differ from bathtime then?

Does it look like the adult and child have a special bond? Explain. Hint — The gentle touch, and their heads together.

What patterns do you see in this painting?

How does this painting make you feel?

What other moments are special to us in our families?

Activities for the Classroom

There are a number of books available at the Arlington Heights Library about Mary Cassatt, and we have a set of Mary Cassatt notecards in the resources drawer that shows some of her other works.

Use this backpack letter for each student to draw a special moment between parent and child, to take home.

Provide each student with a template of a modern day bath, then ask them to capture bathtime in their families, using crayons or other materials. Or ask them to capture another special time with a parent, like bedtime reading.

Provide a template for an item of clothing, for example the outline of a T-shirt. Ask the students to design a pattern for the T-shirt, using Cassatt's good examples of patterns.

Show the students "Little Girl in Blue Armchair" by Cassatt. Ask them how she was feeling (let them explain their answer), then let one of the students show other feelings, like sadness and excitement. Discuss how the Impressionists liked to capture "everyday feelings" in their art.

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