Mary Cassatt, Baby in Blue in Its Carriage, 1881Back

Mary Cassatt
Baby in Blue in Its Carriage

Pastel on gray paper on pasteboard
44 x 43 cm
Museum Langmatt, Baden
Inv.-no. 115


Carefully bundled up, well wrapped, resting in a soft bed. Wherever it may be, there is no doubt that this little child is well protected and tucked in. The background suggests a child’s bed; beyond that, we are uncertain of the precise details. The emphasis is not at all on the place or on a moment in a narrative — something that might well be expected in a picture of the child. The small child in this study is sinking not only into the clothes and pillows, but, above all, into a wonderfully diverse spectrum of shades of blue. Cold and warm, light and dark, red and green tones of blue are transformed into a vibrant weave that dissolves the boundaries of the cushions, the clothing, and the hood and transforms them into a flickering ambience. Our gaze is inescapably drawn to the astonishingly plastic and realistically formed face. A magical energy constantly draws us back there. It is like a gleaming pearl, lying quietly in its wild shell.

Rosy, plump-cheeked, well nourished — the little one seems content, and yet there is a faint suggestion of unquiet in the slightly lowered eyelids, subtly seconded by the little mouth, which is just beginning to pucker unbecomingly. The left hand is being drawn up to make a stubborn motion. These are signs that this epitome of peace and parental happiness may be disrupted in the very next moment.

The swiftly sketched dashes and crosshatchings, sometimes blurred together by haste, simultaneously convey both peace and disquiet. The feeling of dissolution of the motif is reinforced by the pastel strokes, which resemble a drawing. The spatial depth of the blue is not permitted to fully develop, as it is broken up by the multiplicity of strokes and by the permeability of the coarse, hastily flung weave. It makes the great pearl of the face still more luminous in its untroubled, untouched peace. That is, if the signs did not suggest that human tribulations will emerge in the next moment.

Markus Stegmann in: «Herzkammer», Museum Langmatt 2020