Two mothers and their children in a boat, a large canvas demonstrating Mary Cassat’s allegiance to the Impressionist movement, depicts two young women in a boat with their children who are ready for a swim.
The scene could have been observed on the pond at the Château de Beaufresne where Mary Cassatt spent the last years of her life.
The two women dressed in gowns by the couturier Paquin, quite unsuitable for the pleasures of boating, offer an opportunity for some fine painting. The delicacy of their complexions is emphasised by the strong contrast between the complementary yellow and violet of the fabrics. The painter has chosen to frame the painting in such a way as to exclude the sky. The boat is completely surrounded by the blue-green reflection of leaves on the water. The allusion to Japanese prints can be detected in the distortion of perspective and the bold diagonal of the boat, the end of which is excluded from the field.
This painting was incorporated into the Petit Palais collections during the artist’s lifetime courtesy of the son of a major American banker, James A. Stillman. When he retired to Paris in 1909, Stillman asked Mary Cassatt to advise him on the purchase of works to expand his personal collection. At the time of his death in 1918, he owned some twenty works by Cassatt including Two mothers and their children in a boat, initially purchased in Paris in November 1910 from the Durand-Ruel gallery.