Cassatt’s singular women: Reading le figaro and the older new woman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In this chapter I argue that Cassatt, a New Woman herself, made groundbreaking paintings of women who in certain aspects were also “New Women,” even if they did not fit the stereotype. This becomes evident through an in-depth analysis of Cassatt's Reading Le Figaro (1878), which portrays an autonomous older woman reading the newspaper. The painting gives no indication of the woman's maternal role. Instead, it emphasizes characteristics of the sitter as remarkable compared with conventional representations of women at the time—namely her engagement in reading as an intellectual pursuit, and specifically reading a newspaper, an activity considered at the time primarily the province of men. As will be demonstrated, Cassatt's painting of the bespectacled Mrs. Cassatt reading the newspaper resonated with contemporary discourses advocating for women's rights to knowledge, education, and developing their intellectual abilities.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to Nineteenth-Century Art
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781118856321
ISBN (Print)9781118856369
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Academy
  • Art education
  • Cassatt
  • Degas
  • Feminism
  • Impressionism
  • New Woman
  • Salon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (all)


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