A cultivated woman, Mary Cassatt was at home at the theater and opera. In The Loge she depicts two elegantly dressed young women who sit primly in their theater box absorbed in the performance below. The figures are shown close-up, suggesting that we share both their vantage point and their experience of the performance. Reflected in a large mirror behind them, a glittering chandelier illuminates the tiers of gilded balconies that curve majestically around the auditorium. Aware that they are on view from the other boxes, the young women appear slightly self-conscious. One young woman retreats behind her fan. The other clutches her bouquet; her carefully neutral expression establishes a discreet emotional distance.
Cassatt was as attentive to the formal qualities of composition as to the individualization of the figures. Here the sweeping lines of the balconies in the background and the spread of the open fan establish the pattern for this carefully organized composition. The curves are echoed in the black neck ribbon, the rounded shoulders, the arc of the bouquet, and the crystal chandelier. Eliminating details with loose brushwork and softly merging colors, Cassatt suggested rather than defined such elements as the flowers on the fan and the distant audience. Elsewhere, in the arms for example, she emphasized form by allowing the brushstrokes to follow contours and, at times, by using pure line to emphasize a particular shape. The resulting image is, at once, solid and evanescent.