The Child's Bath

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The Child's Bath
Mary Cassatt - The Child's Bath - Google Art Project.jpg
ArtistMary Cassatt
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions100.3 cm × 66.1 cm (39.5 in × 26 in)
LocationArt Institute of Chicago, Chicago

The Child's Bath (or The Bath) is an 1893 oil painting by American artist Mary Cassatt. The subject matter and the overhead perspective were inspired by Japanese Woodcut prints.[1][2] It shows dignity in motherhood and has a style similar to that of Degas.

It was bought by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1910, and has since become one of the most popular pieces in the museum.[3]


The genre painting depicts a mother bathing a young child: an everyday scene that is "special by not being special".[4] It is signed to the lower left "Mary Cassett".

The woman is sitting on oriental carpet, with the child on her knees. The child has a white cloth swathed around its abdomen, and the woman is wearing a dress with strong vertical stripes of green, pink and white. The woman holds the infant firmly and protectively around its waist with her left hand while the other hand carefully washes the child's bare limbs in a basin of water, resting on the floor beside a jug decorated with a floral pattern. The chubby left arm of the child braces against the mother's leg, while its other hand grips the child's own right thigh. The mother's right hand presses firmly but still gently on the child's right foot in the basin, mimicking the child's own pressure on her thigh. In the background are floral patterns of painted furniture and wallpaper.

To indicate depth, Cassatt painted the faces to recede into space. The paint strokes are layered and rough, creating thick lines that outline the figures and stand them out from the patterned background. The hand of the artist is evident through the roughness of the strokes and can be better viewed from a distance.


Cassatt was heavily influenced by some of her fellow Impressionist peers, especially Edgar Degas. The first Impressionist painting to make it back to the United States was a pastel by Degas in 1875 that she purchased. Cassatt began to exhibit with the Impressionists in 1877, where she met other fellow Impressionists such as Claude Monet and Berthe Morisot.

She was struck by the Japanese ukiyo-e woodcut prints exhibited at the Beaux-Arts Academy in Paris in 1890, three years before painting The Child's Bath. Cassatt was drawn to the simplicity and clarity of the Japanese art, and the skillful use of blocks of color, such as the c.1801 print "Woman Washing a Baby in a Tub" or "Bathtime" (行水, Gyōzui) by Kitagawa Utamaro. She worked on a series of prints inspired by the Japanese works in the next few years, with cropped subjects, a flattened perspective and decorative patterns. This 1893 painting can be viewed as a culmination of that work.

The unusual perspective of the painting, viewing the foreshortened subjects from above, was inspired by Japanese prints and Degas. "Japanese printmakers were more interested in decorative impact than precise perspective."[5]


The artist sold the painting to Durand-Ruel and it was exhibited at the Durand-Ruel gallery in Paris in late 1893 under the title "La Toilette de l'Enfant". It was sold to Connecticut industrialist and art collector Harris Whittemore in 1894, but lent back to Durand-Ruel for an exhibition at their New York gallery in 1895 under the title "La Toilette". It was sold to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1910.


  1. ^ Painting profile from the Art Institute of Chicago
  2. ^ Art Access at the Art Institute of Chicago.
  3. ^ Lisa Stein. "The Art Institute has compiled its 'greatest hits.' We asked art experts to expand that list of 11 to include other treasures." Chicago Tribune. 18 April 2003.
  4. ^ Janes, Karen Hosack. Great Paintings. New York: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2011, 179.
  5. ^ Janes, Karen Hosack. Great Paintings. New York: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2011, pg. 180.


  • Janes, Karen Hosack. "Great Paintings". New York: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2011. ISBN 978-0-7566-8675-8. 179–180.
  • The Bath, The Art Institute of Chicago
  • The Child's Bath, Mary Cassatt, 1893, Google Arts & Culture
  • The Bath 1890–91, Mary Cassatt, Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Bath 1890–91, Mary Cassatt, Google Arts & Culture
  • Bathtime (Gyōzui) ca. 1801, Kitagawa Utamaro, Metropolitan Museum of Art

External links[edit]