Cassatt made bourgeois domesticity and the activities of her friends and family the primary subjects of her art. Here, she depicted her mother and sister partaking in the ritual of drinking tea. Seven years older than Cassatt, Lydia frequently modeled for her sister, and the two were familiar figures around Paris, visiting the Louvre, attending openings of art exhibitions, and joining small gatherings of friends in the art and literary circles of the 1870s. The sisters remained unmarried, and as convention prescribed, lived within the protected environment of the family home. This is an impression of the first state of Lydia and her Mother at Tea, Cassatt’s first conception of the scene. In subsequent states, Cassatt darkened the composition with aquatint, largely masking her initial design with passages of tone and texture.
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