I have always found copying from 'the masters' very enlightening. It is one thing to look at a painting and a completely different experience trying to make a copy.
And what you may ask did I learn from this one?
The composition could be a text book study. The contrast of verticals and horizontals, the diagonal stripes that create a strong sense of movement, the play of warm and cool, the limited palette. The handle of the jug repeating the angle of the child's arm, highlights a circular rhythm that starts at the heads, down the mother's arm, from one leg to the next, to the jug, to the child's arm, back to the heads. These connections keep our eye moving around the painting and they soften the impact of all the verticals, horizontals and diagonals. I believe this rhythm also says something about the relationship portrayed. The inward, exclusive focus of that relationship at that moment. And the two heads as one. (and so from and content are in complete harmony with each other)
Another interesting aspect is in the handling of color. The child's skin tones , the mother's dress , the jug and everything that is in the foreground is mostly cool. The background is warm, which generally goes against the 'rules'. Cassatt has compensated by graying down the warm colors so that they recede, and the blueish tones come forward and shine away.
Obviously, one wonders, if Cassatt really planned it all so perfectly . Did she think about all the rules, the meaning of the relationship , bla bla, while she was painting, or had the rules become her 'intuition' after all the years of practice, and she just modified things until they 'felt' right? I would think the second. Knowledge at some point becomes intuition. Don't you think?
More of Mary Cassatt here
My dear friends, thank you for all the supportive and lovely comments after my last post. It means so much to me that you take the time and write your thoughts.