Mari ten Kate was a pupil of his brother, the genre painter H.F.C. ten Kate. He specialised in paintings with figures in them, often featuring children playing. As a true-born romantic, Ten Kate idealised their natural artlessness and virtue, as well as the simple existence of peasants and fishermen. His charming scenes were often far removed from 19th century reality, when such groups in society invariable led a hard and miserable existence.