Cassatt developed a recognizable style and approach to subject matter. Stylistically, her pastels and paintings are both characterized by luminous color. Her paintings feature loose brushwork, while her pastels—inspired by Degas’ use of the medium—are colorful and experimental.
While her style is celebrated, Cassatt is mostly known for her choice of subject matter. Both her pastels and her paintings overwhelmingly feature mothers and children as their subjects, depicting quiet, everyday moments between the pairs. The Barefoot Child, The Boating Party, and The Child’s Bath each depict this interest in iconography, which has become intrinsically associated with the artist.
In addition to mother-child relationships, Cassatt also featured solitary female figures as her subjects, as apparent in well-known works like Lady With a Fan. After 1900, however, Cassatt would work almost exclusively on her signature maternal portraits.
Like many Impressionists, Cassatt is also linked to Japonism, the study of Japanese art and, more specifically, its influence on European works. This influence is primarily evident in her interest in intimately capturing female subjects (a key feature of Japanese woodblock prints), as well the flatness of color, form, and perspective present in many of her works. Woman Bathing and The Letter both illustrate this aesthetic influence.
Along with several of her contemporaries, Mary Cassatt is viewed as one of the pioneers of early modern art. While not as widely known as other Impressionists, today, she is becoming increasingly studied, exhibited, and recognized for her contributions to the history of art.