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Cassatt, The Loge

Mary Cassatt, The Loge, oil on canvas, 1882. 31-7/16 x 25-1/8 inches (National Gallery of Art) Speakers: Beth Harris and Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user b
    The speakers' exclamations about "so much pink" surprised me. Yes, much of the "white" dress is created with pink paint. But isn't that just the effect of the lighting on their faces? And similarly the gloves have a green tint that reflects their surroundings. This is masterful technique (using color in shadowing), but was it really considered new and surprising to contemporary artists?
    (8 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user FinallyGoodAtMath
    I don't understand the mirror mentioned at . Where is it? What is it supposed to be reflecting?
    (5 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user Barbara
      There is a purple gray human shadow like image to between the girl on the right and the edge of the canvas. Although I'm guessing, I take the shadow image to be the reflection of the girl on the left and all balcony images shown to be a reflection. So the mirror would be behind the girls angled so only one child is seen.
      (2 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user John
    Does anyone else find it difficult to picture where these women are sitting in the Opera? Are they in the loge boxes (which can also be seen in the background/reflected foreground)? Was it common for mirrors to be placed in the boxes at the Opera House?
    (3 votes)
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Video transcript

(piano music playing) Beth: We're looking at a painting by Mary Cassatt called The Loge and actually this subject of young women at the opera is something that she paints several times and Degas painting things like her, right? Steve: But Degas painting this subject in a very different way. Beth: Right, he's painting backstage at the opera. Steven: He's painting the women on stage performing and what Cassatt is doing with this American who is in Paris, is painting the audience, painting often Americans and sometimes her family, who are observing. Often in a much more proper sort of environment. Beth: That's true and as a woman, she may have been confined more to that more proper environment. Steven: So they're probably at the Paris opera. Beth: Yes, at the new opera house. Steven: That's right, very much a symbol of the new cultured industrial ... All the money that was created in this new industrial culture Beth: Right, centerpiece of the new modern Paris. Steven: And the stage, of course, was not simply the stage on which the ballerinas performed, but the stage was The Loge. The stage was the audience. Beth: You went to see and be seen. Steven: They seem appropriately skittish, I think, for their place in society, about being observed, Beth: a litte bit, reticent. would have been seen as appropriate to them. Beth: Well, they're very young. They look very young. Steven: But it would have also made them more chaste and I think they are, in a sense, fulfilling their social Beth: They are. Beth: But oh my god! Look at the pinks and the greens. (Steven chuckling) Look at the figure's dress in the foreground and their gloves. Their gloves are blue and green. In a way, I feel like this foreshadows what van Gogh and Gauguin are going to do with color, the detachment from reality. Now this is thinking about shadow in terms of color, but it's so removed from the traditional way of modeling and really modeling with color and suggesting white with color and a really radical way. Steven: And disassociating color from the clearly Beth: Right. Right. Beth: And taking license with color. Steven: Am I looking at these two women who stand in front of a mirror or sit in front of the mirror? Beth: Yeah, I think there's a mirror behind them. Steven: Because they must be looking towards the stage and of course we see the reflection in back of them and if that wonderful chandelier as well which would have been lowered. I feel like this should be called Symphony in Pink and Green and Purple and Yellow. Steven: So are you suggesting that in sense, color is taking a place of the music that they might be hearing? Beth: I hadn't thought of that. I feel very much like there's a ... This is very much about the joy of color. Steven: There is a kind of destruction of traditional space here that would have been influenced by Beth: Japanese prints. And so you've got that kind of reference. You've also got the beautiful arc of the fan, which echoes the arc of her shoulder and also the arc of The Loge that we see in reflection. Beth: Yeah, there are these counter pointing circles. Steven: That move throughout. We see it in ... in her choker. We see it in the fan. We see it in her shoulder. Absolutely, throughout. Beth: This is another example of an impressionist painting where it looks so spontaneous, but when you really stop to analyze, you've got a lot of forms that are very, very carefully constructed. Steven: But I think you're absolutely right. This painting is about color and it's about a kind of open brushwork and it's about the act of observing. Beth: And once again, that open brushwork and this kind of liberty with color suggesting what it was like to live in the 1870s and 80s in Paris. (piano music playing)