The Letter

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Mary Cassatt

The Letter, 1891

Drypoint and aquatint plate

Collection of the McNay Art Museum, gift of Margaret Batts Tobin.


The McNay is one of only a handful of museums in the world to have a complete set of the ten color aquatints Mary Cassatt created in Paris in the winter of 1890-91. The whole suite is a great monument to Japan's influence on Western art and printmaking, Japonisme. The most famous image of the suite is The Letter in which Cassatt combines the color palette of Japanese woodblock prints - brown and blue, non-Western perspective (notice how the desktop goes off at an odd angle), overall patterning that flattens the image, and a composition that compresses the whole scene into a single picture plane.