Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper

by Harriet Scott Chessman

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This is a lovely, gentle story about the relationship between sisters – in this case renowned Impressionist painter Mary (May) Cassatt & her ailing sister Lydia. They are with their parents in France – Lydia is slowly dying from Bright’s Disease (now called nephritis) and May is in denial about her sister’s impending demise. Instead she paints a series of five paintings, from one of my my favourite Cassatt works Woman Reading;

to the more intense Lydia at a Tapestry Frame;


I don’t think I am projecting – you can see the pain in the set of Lydia’s mouth in the latter painting.

This book also touched on other relationship’s in the family and on May’s close friendship with Edgar Degas.

This is a book that rewards a patient reader. My only quibble was the use of French phrases – but changed to English, even though the Cassatts were still speaking French together. A very minor quibble in a book to treasure – not the least because there are five quality plates of the “Lydia paintings.”

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