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Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and His Son, Robert Kelso Cassatt
Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and His Son, Robert Kelso Cassatt, 1884
Mary Stevenson Cassatt, American
Oil on canvas
39 1/2 x 32 inches (100.3 x 81.3 cm)
Purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund and with funds contributed by Mrs. William Coxe Wright, 1959
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Let’s Look

  • Who are the people in this painting? What words would you use to describe them? Do they look like they are related? How?
  • Squint your eyes as you look at the picture. What do you notice?
  • Compare the brushstrokes in the faces and hands to the brushstrokes in the chair and the background. Find some that are different and some that are similar
  • Where are the dark colors in this painting? Where are the lighter ones?

Let’s Look Again

  • What parts of Rob and Aleck’s bodies were most important to Mary Cassatt in this painting? How can you tell?
  • Working together in small groups, discuss whether or not the fabric in the curtains could be the same as on the chair. And, if so, why are they painted differently? Write down three reasons for your answers to each question and compare your results with the other groups
  • Do any of the background colors match the colors in the faces? What overall effect does this create?


Writing Activities

  • Write definitions for the italicized words in the text. Using five of these words, write a description of two people you know who have a close relationship.
  • Mary Cassatt was good at persuading her friends to buy Impressionist paintings. Pretend that you want a wealthy businessperson in your community to buy Cassatt’s portrait of Aleck and Rob. Write a letter to the person explaining why this would be a good painting to buy.
  • Write a poem about one of the important colors in this painting. Use the cinquain (pronounced “sing-KANE”) form, a five-line poem with two syllables in the first line, four in the second, six in the third, eight in the fourth, and two in the fifth. Arrange your words on the page as carefully as Mary Cassatt arranged her colors on her palette!

Hands-on Activities

  • As Mary Cassatt once told her nephew Rob, it is good to start with the eyes when you are making a portrait of someone. Look at the eye color of the person sitting next to you. The colored part is called the iris. The black part inside the iris is the pupil; it controls how much light comes into the eye. Notice that the shape between the upper and lower eyelids is like an almond or a football. The eyelids cover and protect most of the eyeball, which is round. Look for the tear ducts located at the corner of each eye, near the nose. Notice how there are lashes on both the top and bottom eyelids. Now you are ready to draw a pair of eyes. Start with the outside shapes, then add the irises, pupils, lids, and brows.


For more information, please contact The Division of Education by phone at (215) 684-7580, by fax at (215) 236-4063, or by e-mail at .

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