Edward Cassatt was the son of Lois Cassatt, née Buchanan, niece of James Buchanan, the fifteenth President of the United States, and Alexander Johnston Cassatt, an engineer and collector of Haverford, Pennsylvania.. His aunt, Mary Stevenson Cassatt, was a leading painter and printmaker in the Impressionist circle in Paris.
In April 1883, Edward Cassatt was sent to school in Switzerland whilst his parents made a trip to England [#11811].
The day after they arrived in London Lois and Alexander Cassatt approached JW about painting his mother's portrait, although his aunt Mary Cassatt had initially recommended Renoir. Arrangement in Black, No. 8: Portrait of Mrs Cassatt (YMSM 250) was painted at 13 Tite Street, Chelsea. JW had to work in a hurry as the Cassatts had to return to Philadelphia at the end of April 1883.
Whistler gave The Chelsea Girl (YMSM 314), described by the Whitehall Review as a portrait of 'a veritable daughter of the people, with all the defiance of an offspring of the prolétaire in her attitude', to Alexander Cassatt as a present on the delivery of Arrangement in Black, No. 8: Portrait of Mrs Cassatt (YMSM 250) in 1886/7. Edward Cassatt came to own both Arrangement in Black, No. 8: Portrait of Mrs Cassatt (YMSM 250) and The Chelsea Girl (YMSM 314).
Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Sweet, Frederick A., Miss Mary Cassatt: Impressionist from Pennsylvania, Norman, 1966; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; Matthews, N. M. (ed.), Cassatt and her Circle: Selected Letters, New York, 1984; Matthews, N. M., Mary Cassatt: A Life, New York, 1994; www.varleyphoto.com/genealogy/SRV_FamilyGroup/fgo5 (accessed 2004).