An oil painting by one of America's favorite women artists, Mary Cassatt, was auctioned tonight for $1.1 million, a record price for the work of a woman artist and for the work of an American Impressionist painter.

"Reading "Le Figaro"" (1883), a large impressionist portrait depicting Cassatt's mother reading the French newspaper Le Figaro, was the key work in the $11.6 million auction of Impressionist and modern art at Christie's in Manhattan. (The previous record for a woman artist was also for a Cassatt. The previous record for an American Impressionist picture was for a William Merritt Chase painting.)

Pablo Picasso's "Femmes et Enfants au Bord de la Mer" (1932) came in second in the price contest, more than doublin its presale estimate and fetching $1,089,000. Like the Cassatt, the picture was purchased by a telephone bidder, each of the bidders was described by the housed as "a rich man of no fixed abode."

"Thuringer Wald" (circa 1904), a large Expressionist canvas from the studio of Edvard Munch, Norway's leading artist, failed to find a buyer -- the night's only major disappointment.

More than 1,000 smartly dressed and sun-tanned people crowded into the fashionable Park Avenue salesrooms and with telephone attendants, linked up to bidders in South America, Japan, Switzerland, Oklahoma and Georgia. A crew of French television technicians added to the night's excitement, anticipation and confusion.