Published: Adelson Galleries, 2004
By the turn of the century, Cassatt had established herself as a pivotal figure within the canon of modernism. She grew disenchanted with Durand-Ruel during this time, and began to work with the younger and more daring Ambroise Vollard, whose gallery in Montmartre had become the epicenter of cutting-edge art. Vollard loved the graphic arts and single-handedly created the marketplace for works on paper by painters, urging his artists-Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, Marc Chagall, Paul Gauguin, and Édouard Vuillard, as well as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse-to work in multiple images. Vollard understood Cassatt's restless experimentation and the summary nature of her work, and he enthusiastically purchased paintings and pastels that were thought to be too "unfinished" by the more conservative Durand-Ruel. It was in this context that the counterproofs in this exhibition were produced.
The unfolding of these events is brilliantly brought to life by Jay E. Cantor and Pamela A. Ivinski in the two essays contained in the exhibition catalogue. Marc Rosen and Susan Pinsky, the exhibition's producers, knew where these works had been kept. Through their efforts the trove has now been brought to light. We are grateful to them for their special insights and to the other people who have helped in the production of this unique event. William H. Gerdts contributed his wise counsel as a member of the Mary Cassatt Catalogue Raisonné Committee. Andrea Maltese has organized the production of the exhibition and this publication. Hubbard Toombs registered the collection, and my colleagues at Adelson Galleries have been attentive to every detail. They have my thanks.
A pastel counterproof is made by placing a dampened sheet of paper on top of a pastel and applying pressure (by rubbing or by the use of a press) to transfer some of the surface of the pastel to the new sheet. The technique can be remarkably successful in creating a second work, which is in mirror image and is somewhat softer looking, while the pastel itself appears essentially unchanged, even if more than one counterproof impression was made from it.
This process was used frequently by artists of the eighteenth century but lapsed early in the nineteenth with the ascendancy of Romanticism, which demanded the weightier aesthetic of oil paint. In the later nineteenth century, the fresh and airy hues of pastel were once again found to be particularly appealing, and the flattened surfaces and subtle colors that result from the counterproof process naturally attracted artists who were immersed in the ethereal symbolism and patterns that characterized much Post-Impressionist art at the turn of the century.
Mary Cassatt's friend and champion, Edgar Degas, produced a great number of counterproofs of charcoal drawings and pastels, several of which he eventually reworked. But Cassatt, who we now know produced a comparable body of work in this medium, appears to have left her counterproofs untouched.
In the exhibition catalogue, Warren Adelson, Jay E. Cantor and Pamela A. Ivinski, discuss the lively role of Ambroise Vollard as a motivating dealer in the artistic community of Paris of his time and examine Cassatt's counterproofs within the context of this moment. Without Vollard's interest, encouragement, and his ever hopeful projects for the future, much artwork of his era would never have been produced. The exhibition for which this catalogue has been published is an occasion to celebrate both the revelation of previously unknown works by Mary Cassatt and the vision of Ambroise Vollard.
We are delighted to add to the literature on the artist with the production of this volume, Art in a Mirror: The Counterproofs of Mary Cassatt, as a complement to our earlier publication, Mary Cassatt, Prints and Drawings from the Artist's Studio, and are pleased to continue our long-standing collaboration with Adelson Galleries and its fine staff. * These are included in the sale catalogues of works from the Degas studio as "Impressions en couleur et en noir" and "Impressions rehaussées de couleurs."