During Mary Cassatt's early Impressionist period, she frequently focused on the activities of middle-class women in society—at the theater or taking tea, for example. At first glance, the arresting painting On a Balcony, which was shown in the 1880 Impressionist exhibition, appears to depict a woman in a public setting. However, the blue rail of the balcony, visible near the top of the painting, defines the enclosed space of a private garden, while the woman's morning dress further indicates the intimacy of her location. Cassatt signaled the modernity of her subject through the woman's choice of reading material; she peruses a newspaper rather than a novel. Even at home Cassatt's subjects are connected to the contemporary world, not lost in a fictional fantasy.
gardenchairfemale artistnewspaperwoman readingoil on canvas