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15 Things You Should Know About Little Girl in a Blue Armchair

Beholding the blasé child here, it's easy to smile. Who hasn't been that bored, even if not while so well attired? You might recognize American artist Mary Cassatt's most popular painting, yet few know the secrets behind Little Girl in a Blue Armchair. 

1. It broke from the traditions of child portraits. 

Art historian Petra Chu has described the 1878 painting as "a radically new image of childhood" because Little Girl in a Blue Armchair dared to show a child being a child, slouched and arguably petulant. In short, it was a far cry from the many, many paintings that portrayed children as living dolls or picture-perfect cherubs. 

2. Little Girl in a Blue Armchair is a great example of Cassatt's signature style.

Cassatt once wrote, "I love to paint children. They are so natural and truthful." The naturalism seen in this little girl's lounging became a defining characteristic of her later paintings of ballerinas, women and children. 

3. It shows influence from the French Impressionists

Cassatt's use of vivid colors and her apparent brushstrokes mirrored the style of the independent painters she'd befriended during her stints in Paris. Together these mavericks would collectively be characterized as Impressionists. To that end, it is believed Little Girl in a Blue Armchair made its debut at the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition in 1879 with the title Portrait de petite fille.

4. Edgar Degas painted part of the piece. 

The Pennsylvania-born Cassatt and Impressionist titan Edgar Degas made an odd couple. She was an affluent American and outspoken suffragist. He was a Frenchman 10 years her senior who frequented brothels and once declared women didn't understand style. Nonetheless, the pair became close friends and collaborators

Cassatt once referred to Degas making a contribution to Little Girl in a Blue Armchair in a letter to a friend. More than 130 years later, a patch of brush strokes inconsistent with the rest of the piece confirmed this collaboration. Infrared scanning gave further details and revealed that Degas gave the room a corner where once there was a flat wall. 

5. Degas also helped cast the girl. 

Cassatt’s model was the daughter of a friend of Degas. Her name, sadly, is lost to history. 

6. This collaboration is not proof of a tryst between the artists, though.

Many historians and critics have speculated on the close relationship between Cassatt and Degas over the years, debating whether it was one of mentor/protégé, mutually respecting peers, or lovers. However, curator Kimberly Jones has determined, "There’s nothing (to suggest the pair were romantically involved). No sly comments, no wry observations in letters, no asides. If something were going on, somebody would have said something. Artists are terrible gossips."

Jones added, "(Cassatt) was already risking her reputation, just by being an artist and by hanging out with these crazy impressionists. If there had been even one whiff of impropriety, she wouldn’t have been taken seriously as a painter."

7. The painting is smaller than you might think. 

Perhaps it’s the depth of field created by the corner and those far-flung bits of furniture, but Little Girl in a Blue Armchair looks like it's been painted on a grand canvas. In fact, it measures 89.5 x 129.8 cm, roughly 3 by 4¼ feet. 

8. The puppy pictured is a Brussels Griffon.

It's believed the American artist first saw this Belgian toy breed while visiting Antwerp in 1873. As a gift, Degas gave her the pictured pup, Baptiste. Also called Batty, the dog would be not just her muse, but also Cassatt's constant companion for the rest of its life.  

9. Japanese prints were an influence on the painting’s staging.

A printmaker herself, Cassatt collected Japanese prints and drew inspiration from their patterns and asymmetric structures. It's believed that urged her choice to place her subject off center, encircled by the turquoise of that bold furniture. Further nods to Japanese art can be seen in the way the forms are tilted up, and the way the top of the image seems cropped, cutting off the tops of the chairs.

10. The girl's fashion was on point. 

Sure, the outfit loses something in the slouching, but the white dress with lace details and Tartan shawl with matching socks and hair bow were the height of children's fashion of this time.  

11. A recent, careful cleaning has restored Girl in a Blue Armchair to its original glory. 

The varnish on the painting had turned yellow over decades, giving the whole painting a jaundiced appearance. But once this was delicately stripped away, the colors Cassatt intended could be seen for the first time in generations. 

12. Little Girl in a Blue Armchair was not instantly adored.

In 1878, the piece was rejected by the Paris Exposition Universelle, the city's third World's Fair. "I was furious," Cassatt wrote in a letter. "At that time this appeared new and the jury consisted of three people of which one was a pharmacist!" 

13. Little Girl has become quite the traveler. 

The painting was in private hands until 1983, when American philanthropists Paul and Bunny Mellon donated it to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Since then, the museum has loaned the painting to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The National Gallery in London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston—just to name a few. With each new destination the painting has visited, the love for Cassatt's daring portrait has grown. 

14. Cassatt & Little Girl in a Blue Armchair have been celebrated as feminist.

In 2006, feminist academic Germaine Greer argued that Cassatt's rejection of cuddly clichés in depicting children and their mothers was revolutionary. This painting and Cassatt's other works dared to capture these marginalized people as they are, not as ideals of innocence or maternal bliss. 

15. Little Girl in a Blue Armchair's place in Impressionism's history has been challenged. 

In the spring of 2015, the National Gallery in London mounted a Paul Durand-Ruel exhibition by promoting the art dealer as the founder of Impressionism. Art historian Griselda Pollock decried this characterization as undermining the Impressionist movement that arose from the work of independent artists and erasing Cassatt and her female peers from the movement's creation. 

The show meant to exhibit the paintings Durand-Ruel had bought as a means to show how he shaped Impressionism as a brand. But Pollock points out, "Durand-Ruel bought as many works by Mary Cassatt as Edgar Degas. But in the exhibition, there is only one painting by Mary Cassatt: The Child’s Bath … This virtual absenting of the work of Mary Cassatt flies in the face of a key fact about the Impressionist exhibiting group: that it was the first affirmatively and consistently egalitarian art movement."

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King Features Syndicate
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Comics
10 Things You Might Not Know About Hägar the Horrible
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

For 45 years, the anachronistic adventures of a Scandinavian Viking named Hägar have populated the funny papers. Created by cartoonist Dik Browne, Hagar the Horrible is less about raiding and pillaging and more about Hägar’s domestic squabbles with wife Helga. If you’re a fan of this red-bearded savage with a surprisingly gentle demeanor, check out some facts about the strip’s history, Hägar’s status as a soda pitchman, and his stint as a college football mascot.

1. HÄGAR IS NAMED AFTER HIS CREATOR.

Richard Arthur “Dik” Browne got his start drawing courtroom sketches for New York newspapers; he debuted a military strip, Ginny Jeep, for servicemen after entering the Army in 1942. Following an advertising stint where he created the Chiquita Banana logo, he was asked to tackle art duties on the 1954 Beetle Bailey spinoff strip Hi and Lois. When he felt an urge to create his own strip in 1973, Browne thought back to how his children called him “Hägar the Horrible” when he would playfully chase them around the house. “Immediately, I thought Viking,” he told People in 1978. Hägar was soon the fastest-growing strip in history, appearing over 1000 papers.

2. HE COULD HAVE BEEN BULBAR THE BARBARIAN.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

Working on Hi and Lois with cartoonist Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey) gave Browne an opportunity to solicit advice on Hägar from his more experienced colleague. As Walker recalled, he thought “Hägar” would be too hard for people to pronounce or spell and suggested Browne go with “Bulbar the Barbarian” instead. Browne brushed off the suggestion, preferring his own alliterative title.

3. A HEART ATTACK COULD HAVE CHANGED HÄGAR’S FATE.

When Browne came up with Hägar, he sent it along to a syndicate editor he knew from his work on Hi and Lois. According to Chris Browne, Dik’s son and the eventual artist for Hägar after his father passed away in 1989, the man originally promised to look at it after he got back from his vacation. He changed his mind at the last minute, reviewing and accepting the strip before leaving. Just days later, while on his ski vacation, the editor had a heart attack and died. If he hadn’t approved the strip prior to his passing, Browne said, Hägar may never have seen print.

4. THE STRIP HELPED BROWNE AVOID VANDALS.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

Chris Browne recalled that Halloween in his Connecticut neighborhood was a time for kids to show their appreciation for his father’s work. While trick-or-treaters were busy covering nearby houses in toilet paper or spray paint, they spared the Browne residence. The only evidence of their vandalism was a spray-painted sign that read, “Mr. Browne, We Love Hägar.”

5. BROWNE’S DAUGHTER TALKED HIM OUT OF KIDNAPPING PLOTS.

Vikings were not known for being advocates for human rights. Hägar, despite his relatively genteel persona, still exhibited some barbaric traits, such as running off with “maidens” after a plundering session. Speaking with the Associated Press in 1983, Browne admitted he toned down the more lecherous side of Hägar after getting complaints from his daughter. “Running off with a maiden isn’t funny,” she told him. “It’s a crime.”

6. HÄGAR ENDORSED SODA.

A soda can featuring Hägar the Horrible
Amazon

Despite his preference for alcohol, Hägar apparently had a bit of a sweet tooth as well. In the 1970s, King Features licensed out a line of soda cans featuring some of their most popular comic strip characters, including Popeye, Blondie, and Hägar. The Viking also shilled for Mug Root Beer in the 1990s.

7. HE WAS A COLLEGE MASCOT.

In 1965, Cleveland State University students voted in the name “Vikings” for their collegiate basketball team. After using a mascot dubbed Viktorious Vike, the school adopted Hägar in the 1980s. Both Hägar and wife Helga appeared at several of the school’s sporting events before being replaced by an original character named Vike.

8. HE EVENTUALLY SOBERED UP.

A Hägar the Horrible comic strip
King Features Syndicate

When Dik Browne was working on Hägar, the Viking was prone to bouts of excessive drinking. When Chris Browne took over the strip, he made a deliberate decision to minimize Hägar’s imbibing. "When my father was doing the strip, he did an awful lot of gags about Hägar falling down drunk and coming home in a wheelbarrow, and as times go on that doesn't strike me as that funny anymore,” Brown told the Chicago Tribune in 1993. “Just about everybody I know has had somebody hurt by alcoholism or substance abuse.”

9. HE HAD HIS OWN HANNA-BARBERA CARTOON.

It took some time, but Hägar was finally honored with the animated special treatment in 1989. Cartoon powerhouse Hanna-Barbera created the 30-minute special, Hägar the Horrible: Hägar Knows Best, and cast the Viking as being out of his element after returning home for the first time in years. The voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen, performed the title character. It was later released on DVD as part of a comic strip cartoon collection.

10. HE SAILED INTO THE WIZARD OF ID.

A Wizard of Id comic strip
King Features Syndicate

In 2014, Hägar made an appearance in the late Johnny Hart’s Wizard of Id comic strip, with the two characters looking confused at the idea they’ve run into one another at sea. Hägar also made a cameo in Blondie to celebrate that character’s 75th birthday in 2005.

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Pop Chart Lab
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infographics
Every Emoji Ever, Arranged by Color
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

What lies at the end of the emoji rainbow? It's not a pot of gold, but rather an exclamation point—a fitting way to round out the Every Emoji Ever print created by the design experts over at Pop Chart Lab.

As the name suggests, every emoji that's currently used in version 10.0.0 of Unicode is represented, which, if you're keeping track, is nearly 2400.

Each emoji was painstakingly hand-illustrated and arranged chromatically, starting with yellow and ending in white. Unicode was most recently updated last summer, with 56 emojis added to the family. Some of the newest members of the emoji clan include a mermaid, a couple of dinosaurs, a UFO, and a Chinese takeout box. However, the most popular emoji last year was the "despairing crying face." Make of that what you will.

Past posters from Pop Chart Lab have depicted the instruments played in every Beatles song, every bird species in North America, and magical objects of the wizarding world. The price of the Every Emoji Ever poster starts at $29, and if you're interested, the piece can be purchased here.

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