Miss Mary Ellison, c. 1880
From the Tour: Mary Cassatt — Selected Paintings
This painting is the second of two portraits by Mary Cassatt thought to be of Mary Ellison. Cassatt painted the first in 1877, shortly after she met Miss Ellison through their mutual friend, Louise Waldron Elder (later Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, a well-known American art collector and a patron of Cassatt). Cassatt does not flatter but, rather, concentrates on Miss Ellison's contemplative mood.
In this painting, Cassatt demonstrates her affinities with the impressionists. Her brushwork is open and sketchy, and she favors a strong compositional structure over pictorial detail. The mirror behind Ellison was a device the artist used often; its presence allowed the expansion of the composition's implied space to include areas that the viewer could not otherwise see.