The Banjo Lesson (Primary Title)

Mary Cassatt, American, 1844 - 1926 (Artist)

Works On Paper
pastel over oiled pastel on tan wove paper
United States
Unframed: 28 × 22 1/2 in. (71.12 × 57.15 cm)
Framed: 37 7/8 × 32 3/4 in. (96.2 × 83.19 cm)
Not on view

In The Banjo Lesson, the figures’ physical engrossment—as well as their intent gaze upon the instrument’s fingerboard—epitomizes a trend during the late 19th century in which artists aligned the banjo with female achievement and enlightenment. Anglo female banjoists appear in myriad American paintings, prints, and illustrations of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. Cassatt depicted the banjo in her work on at least six occasions. These images suggest the instrument’s role in evolving conceptions of sexuality, autonomy, and selfhood in American women’s culture of the time. The Banjo Lesson is based on Cassatt’s Modern Woman mural in the Woman’s Building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, from which she at one time intended to produce a series of prints.

signed lower right: "Mary Cassatt"
signed lower right: "Mary Cassatt"
Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund
Breeskin no. 156.
"Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman," Art Institute of Chicago, 13 October, 1998 - 10 January, 1999; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 14 February - 9 May, 1999; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 6 June - 6 September, 1999.

"American Around 1900: Impressionism, Realism, and Modern Life," Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 14 June - 17 September, 1996.

"Mary Cassatt: The Color Prints," The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 18 June - 27 August, 1989; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 9 September - 5 November, 1989; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA, 25 November, 1989 - 21 January, 1990.

"Mary Cassatt: Pastels and Color Prints," National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C., 23 January - 26 Mary, 1978, cat. no. 17, p. 30, ill. on cover.

"The Art of Mary Cassatt," M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1 - 26 February, 1966, cat. no. 26.

"Impressionism in American," Unviersity Art Gallery, University of New Mexico, Albequerque, 8 February - 15 March, 1965; M.H. de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA, 25 March - 10 May 1965; cat. no. 3, p. 23, ill. p. 22.

"Manet, Degas, Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot," Baltimore Museum of Art, 17 April - 3 June, 1962, cat. no. 115, p. 60.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1958.

Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1941.

Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1928.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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