Lydia Crocheting in the Garden at Marly, 1880. Mary Cassatt. Oil on canvas. Gift of Mrs. Gardner Cassatt, 1965.
Cassatt and her family spent the summer of 1880 at Marly-le-Roi, about ten miles west of Paris. Ignoring the village’s historic landmarks in her art, Cassatt focused instead on the domestic environment. Here, she portrayed her elder sister, Lydia, fashionably dressed and insulated by a walled garden from any modern hurly-burly. Lydia is absorbed in the sort of old-fashioned handicraft that was increasingly prized by the well-to-do as factory manufacture by working-class women escalated. Although Cassatt was generally uninterested in plein-air painting, she captured the effects of dazzling sunlight beautifully in this work, especially in Lydia’s large white hat.