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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt

Photo: Susan Cole

Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt


Mary Cassatt

Allegheny City, Pennsylvania 1844-1926 Menil-Theribus, Oise, France

The ease with which Cassatt seems to have created this portrait of her beloved older brother in the strongly gestural medium of pastel—which she and others referred to as “painting”—belies the meticulous care that the work actually required. The portrait was likely made in June 1888, when Alexander was visiting his artist sister in Paris, where she had been living since 1874, together with her parents and her sister. In a letter home to the United States, Alexander’s wife wrote: “Mary has painted a very good portrait of Aleck for which he has been posing every morning for two hours for two weeks.” Appearing congenial but formal nevertheless, Alexander was an executive with the Pennsylvania Railroad and became its president in 1899.

Pastel on laminate wood pulp paperboard
36 1/2 x 28 1/2 in. (92.7 x 72.4 cm)
Framed: 48 x 40 1/2 in. (121.9 x 102.9 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Brechemin, by exchange
Provenance: The artist, by gift to the sitter, her brother, Alexander Johnston Cassatt (1839-1906), Haverford or Philadelphia; by bequest to his son, Robert Kelso Cassatt (1873-1944), Rosemont, Pennsylvania and Newport, Rhode Island; by bequest to his son, Lt. Commander Alexander J. Cassatt, Cecilton, Maryland; by gift to his daughter, 1976-1988; consigned to [Coe Kerr Gallery, Inc., New York, by September 1988]; sold to Seattle Art Museum, December, 1988
Photo: Susan Cole
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition History{Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Representative Modern Artist,. Apr. 17 - May 9, 1920. Cat. no. 43. [lent by Robert Kelso Cassatt]}.

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Mary Cassatt Exhibition, {dates?}, 1960, no cat. no. [as Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt, pastel, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander J. Cassatt, according to typed unnumbered copy of checklist in Frick Art Reference Library].

New York, M. Knoedler and Co., The Paintings of Mary Cassatt--A Benefit Exhibition for the Development of the National Collection of Fine Arts, Feb. 1-26, 1966. Text by Adelyn Breeskin. Cat. no. 33.

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of art, Mary Cassatt and Philadelphia, Feb. 17-Apr. 14, 1985. Text by Suzanne G. Lindsay. Cat no. 17, pp. 61-62, reproduced p. 61.

Tacoma, Washington, Tacoma Art Museum, Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Their Circle: French Impressionism and the Northwest, Sept. 28, 2019-Jan. 24, 2020.
Published ReferencesCarson, Julia M. H. Mary Cassatt. New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1966; reproduced p. 139.

Breeskin, Adelyn Dohme. Mary Cassatt: A Catalogue Raisonne of the Oils, Pastels, Watercolors, and Drawings. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1970; no. 150, p. 85, reproduced [dated ca. 1887].

Mathews, Nancy Mowll. "Mary Cassatt and the 'Modern Madonna' of the Nineteenth Century." PhD. dissertation, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1980; p. 72.

Selected Works. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1991; p. 112.

Mathews, Nancy Mowll. Mary Cassatt: A Life. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994; p. 181, reproduced p. 183, fig. 77.

Mathews, Nancy Mowll, ed. Cassatt: A Retrospective. Fairfield, Connecticut: Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, Inc., 1996; reproduced p. 134.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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