The Cup of Tea

Mary Cassatt (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1844–1926 Le Mesnil-Théribus, Oise)
ca. 1880–81
Oil on canvas
36 3/8 x 25 3/4 in. (92.4 x 65.4 cm)
Credit Line:
From the Collection of James Stillman, Gift of Dr. Ernest G. Stillman, 1922
Accession Number:
Not on view
Taking afternoon tea was a social ritual for many upper-middle-class women. Committed to portraying the ordinary events of everyday life, the artist made that ritual the subject of a series of works painted around 1880, when she had been living abroad for the better part of a decade. Her model for this canvas was her sister, Lydia, who had moved to Paris, along with their parents, in 1877 and often posed for her. Cassatt’s embrace of French Impressionism is signaled by her scintillating brushwork, high-keyed palette, and emphasis on contrasting complementary colors. Cassatt showed the painting to critical acclaim in the 1881 Impressionist exhibition.
Signature: [at lower left]: Mary Cassatt
With Durand-Ruel Galleries, Paris, 1891–95; with Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, 1895; with Durand-Ruel Galleries, Paris, 1895–1911; James Stillman, Paris and New York, 1911–18; his son, Dr. Ernest G. Stillman, New York, 1918–22