Edgar Degas styles Mary Cassatt memorably in Mary Cassatt at the Louvre. The exhibition Degas/Cassatt at the National Gallery has an entire room devoted to this painting. The next time you think of asking someone to photograph you in a museum, you may wish to use Degas’s portrait of Cassatt as inspiration. Choose an outfit that gives you a long line in dark colors and which cinches in at the waist, stand so you evoke an elegant S-curve with your back to the viewer, bring a slender umbrella to heighten the elegance of your stance, and above all, think about the art. That is what you are recording, not your presence but your absorption. Cassatt’s pose shows that she’s no passive observer. With one arm extended as she leans on the umbrella, she exudes assurance. Cassatt is every inch the connoisseur. The male gaze is not always prurient as some critics would have it.
These two etchings are among the many included in the exhibition.