Cassatt, Mary (1844-1926)

Le the (Five O'Clock Tea)

1880

Oil on canvas

25 1/2 x 36 1/2 in (64.7 x 92.7 cm)

The 19th century was full of longing for virtue and innocence. These young girls beautiful and colorful, decent and virginal sit there meditating their tea like adults that have accepted the dominance of time. One does not really see the reality: one sees an ideal, as if they are experienced woman, ever young, innocent and happy with their tea. The restlessness of the primal offense of culture against natural time is strange in this scene. It does not exist. The intelligent onlooker will immediately notice: this is an idea, a dream , an expression of hope, 19th century science fiction. Do the young woman really watch the clock? Aren't they waiting for their lovers? No it is the cup of tea it is all about and the time therefore!
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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