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Synopsis

Harriet Scott Chessman takes us into the world of Mary Cassatt's early Impressionist paintings through Mary's sister Lydia, whom the author sees as Cassatt’s most inspiring muse. Chessman hauntingly brings to life Paris in 1880, with its thriving art world. The novel’s subtle power rises out of a sustained inquiry into art’s relation to the ragged world of desire and mortality. Ill with Bright’s disease and conscious of her approaching death, Lydia contemplates her world narrowing. With the rising emotional tension between the loving sisters, between one who sees and one who is seen, Lydia asks moving questions about love and art’s capacity to remember. Chessman illuminates Cassatt’s brilliant paintings and creates a compelling portrait of the brave and memorable model who inhabits them with such grace. Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper includes five full-color plates, the entire group of paintings Mary Cassatt made of her sister.

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