enamel paint on wood
49" x 38" x 22"
The image of mother and child has been pervasive in art history. Mary Cassatt explored this intimacy repeatedly in her art, as did numerous artists who worked within a religious context: Madonna and child. Raphael, in particular, returned to this theme often, as in a painting called Madonna of the Goldfinch, in which the Christ Child holds the small bird, a symbol of His Passion (the goldfinch feeds among thorns and thistles). In Elusive Joy, key elements have been altered: the baby merely reaches for the bird, and, more important, the woman and child are not connected at all. Is she the mother or not? The word passion might now take on its more familiar, secular meaning, longing and desire, and apply to the woman.
At the end of her life, Mary Cassatt admitted her great regret, that she did not have children. On either side of Elusive Joy are terra cotta urns, each embellished with an image of a woman artist. Out of these urns grown the lovely but thorny yellow roses.