Artwork Details

Mary Cassatt


The Banjo Lesson
c. 1893
Drypoint and aquatint on paper
11 3/4 x 9 1/2 inches
Not on view
Accession Number
Museum Purchase

About the Artwork

Like many of her fellow Impressionist artists in Paris, Mary Cassatt was drawn to and inspired by Japanese color woodblock prints. This influence, together with the knowledge she had gained in intaglio printmaking since 1879, resulted in a group of eighteen outstanding color prints she created in the 1890s.

The Banjo Lesson is directly related to the mural the artist was painting at this time for the Women’s Pavilion at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Now lost, the mural’s theme was modern woman,” and the right-hand panel included a personification of Music depicted by a young woman playing the banjo. The popularity of banjo playing among middle- and upper-class women of the 1890s made it an extremely modern scene, purposely chosen by Cassatt for that reason. She is quoted as saying that her image of Music would contain nothing of St. Cecelia,” referring to the patron saint of music traditionally depicted holding a lyre, harp, or other classical instrument.