VIDEO: A Moment in Art History | The Boating Party – What Inspired Mary Cassatt’s Famous Painting?

The Boating Party is one of the most famous paintings by American-born artist Mary Cassatt, who lived in France for most of her career. In this Moment in Art History, we’ll explore why Cassatt often painted mothers and their children and some of the other elements that may have influenced the piece.


Artwork seen in the background:

Landscapes by Shalece Fiack –

Stone and Steel Sculptures by Charles Adams and Thomas Widhalm –

Portions of the script for this video were sourced from:

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. Hi Jason, Interesting. I found the ‘gaze’ to be the most interesting part of this painting – who is looking at who and what their faces say. It does not appear to be a very happy or contented family, with mother lacking emotion, baby looking quite wary and father seeming to be even a tad angry or disgruntled. Several of her paintings intrigue me this way. The “Girl in a Blue Armchair” even makes me laugh as the girl is so evidently bored with sitting for the artist! Fun to really LOOK at art!

  2. Thank you for profiling a female artist. They have historically been neglected. I attended a special exhibit of Cassatt’s work years ago here in New England and although I’m not a huge fan of her type of work (I used to be when I was younger) I do admire her talent and tenacity. I like your selection of The Boat Party, as it’s one of her more interesting pieces. Reminds me a bit of the Japanese works, and even Van Gogh’s The Sower. By the way, a few years ago I read a novel based on the Cassatt sisters which was quite interesting and fun, “Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper.”
    Thank you Jason for sharing this moment in art hostory with us!

  3. Hi Jason,
    I really enjoyed the paintings and the story of Mary Casset’s life. What a wonderful painter she was. Her colors are beautiful and she really captures the spirit of her subjects. In the boating party it seems there is a powerful dynamic going on between her and the boatman. it is interesting you can just about see one of his eyes and she does not look totally happy with him???
    Thanks again for the great presentation.

  4. I do enjoy your history classes, I always enjoyed Mary Cassett, in the Boating Party I like the palette she used and the over all design of the composition..
    Very happy for her success!!
    Thank you

  5. Mary Casset’s ability to give the viewer an intimate glimpse into the lives of her subjects is what I find so appealing about her work. Her use of simple shapes and harmonious colors adds to the feeling that these are familiar, or pleasant, places to spend the day. I like that she eludes to more complicated emotions beneath the surface making them more psychological studies than documentational. Nice choice of artist and piece. Thanks Jason.

  6. As a pastelist, I tend to favor Cassatt’s pastel paintings. My favorite, because of the beautiful handling of color, is “Lydia Leaning on Her Arms”. In addition, I can’t view this painting without thinking of Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”. For anyone who likes that painting, I would highly recommend reading “Luncheon of the Boating Party” by Susan Vreeland. It is the background story of the Renoir painting, narrated by Renoir and several of the models. It makes the painting come to life!

  7. I thought you were going to tell how she painted it. I am sure the people were posing. She most likely set up a boat in her studio and had the people take turns posing for a very long time over days and months. Mr. Monet said the word impressionism was an unfortunate description of the group because most of them were not impressionists.

    Mr. Degas and Madame Cassat did not work in the same way as Mr. Monet and Madame Morisot. All of the artists were trained to set up scenes in the studio. It was Monet, Sisley, Pissarro and Morisot who specialized in painting en plein air or through a window to plein air. One reads about Monet’s en plein air methods in the book Monet and the Mediterranean by Joachim Pissarro.

  8. Several years ago my husband and I visited the Frye Museum in Seattle. On display were an overwhelming number of gigantic, I suppose Victorian paintings. Acres of canvas, heavily covered with oil paint. Rather bored, we went to lunch in the cafe. On our way out to the entrance, a small painting hung rather high on a blank wall stopped me in my tracks. I had only caught a glimpse over my right shoulder, but it was simply the real thing. It was a Morisot.

    The Cassatt that you are featuring would have done the same thing. The Shapes. And there is so much motion all through the painting. I love the dreamlike colors. The little child’s eyes are so alive.

    Sorry for the long preface, but the experience, even though online, felt so similar. Thank you for giving this talk.

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