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Artists Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt Photo

Mary Cassatt

American Draftsman, Painter, and Printmaker

Movements and Styles: Impressionism, Proto-Feminist Artists

Born: May 22, 1844 - Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, United States

Died: June 14, 1926 - Mesnil-Theribus, Oise, France

Mary Cassatt Timeline

Quotes

"I am independent! I can live alone and I love to work."
Mary Cassatt
"It is as well not to have too great an admiration for your master's work. You will be in less danger of imitating him. "
Mary Cassatt
"A woman artist must be .. capable of making the primary sacrifices."
Mary Cassatt
"I have touched with a sense of art some people - they felt the love and the life. Can you offer me anything to compare that to the joy for an artist?"
Mary Cassatt
"There are two ways for a painter: the broad and easy one or the narrow and hard one."
Mary Cassatt
"Most women paint as though they are trimming hats. Not you."
Degas said to Cassatt

"I had already recognized who were my true masters. I admired Manet, Courbet and Degas. I hated conventional art - I began to live."

Mary Cassatt Signature

Synopsis

American-born Mary Cassatt traveled to France for her artistic training and remained there for most of her life and career. There she was recognized by contemporaries like Edgar Degas for her talent, and she became the only American artist to exhibit with the Impressionists in Paris. Her signature subjects were portraits of women and portrayals of mothers and children caught in everyday moments. In both her style and her insightful evocations of women's inner lives, she was a distinctly modern artist of the late-19th century.

Key Ideas

Cassatt's work combined the light color palette and loose brushwork of Impressionism with compositions influenced by Japanese art as well as by European Old Masters, and she worked in a variety of media throughout her career. This versatility helped to establish her professional success at a time when very few women were regarded as serious artists.
Cassatt's art typically depicted domestic settings, the world to which she herself (as a respectable woman) was restricted, rather than the more public spaces that her male contemporaries were free to inhabit. Her material was occasionally dismissed as quintessentially "feminine," yet most critics realized that she brought considerable technical skill and psychological insight to her subject matter.
Through her business acumen and her friendships and professional relationships with artists, dealers, and collectors on both sides of the Atlantic, Cassatt became a key figure in the turn-of-the-century art world and helped to establish the taste for Impressionist art in her native United States.

Biography

Mary Cassatt Photo

Early Life and Training

Mary Stevenson Cassatt was born to a comfortably upper-middle-class family: her father was a successful stockbroker, and her mother belonged to a prosperous banking family. The Cassatts lived in France and Germany from 1851 to 1855, giving the young Mary an early exposure to European arts and culture. She also learned French and German as a child; these language skills would serve her well in her later career abroad. Little else is known about her childhood, but she may have visited the 1855 Paris World's Fair, at which she would have viewed the art of Gustave Courbet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Eugène Delacroix, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, among other French masters.

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Mary Cassatt Biography Continues

Important Art by Mary Cassatt

The below artworks are the most important by Mary Cassatt - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Little Girl in Blue Armchair (1878)

Little Girl in Blue Armchair (1878)

Artwork description & Analysis: In this important work of her mature career, Cassatt chose to portray a young girl alone in a domestic interior. The visible brushwork and the figure's informal pose are hallmarks of Impressionism; the asymmetrical composition, raised viewpoint, shallow space, and abrupt cropping of the scene all indicate the influence of Japanese art. Cassatt also brings her own astute observations to the construction of this image. The girl, who was a child of a friend of Degas, is seated in a sprawling, unselfconscious manner that reminds the viewer of her young age, and the way that she is dwarfed by the adult furniture around her evokes the awkwardness and isolation of certain stages of childhood.

Oil on canvas - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

In the Loge (1878)

In the Loge (1878)

Artwork description & Analysis: This canvas shows a stylish woman attending a daytime performance at the Comedie-Francaise, a famous theater in Paris. The woman's profile is set off against the red velvet and gilt decoration of the box seats behind her as she raises a pair of opera glasses to her eyes. The black of her dress is echoed in the clothing of other figures in the background, including a man several boxes down who regards her through his own glasses. Cassatt has perceptively grasped the fact that the members of the well-dressed audience are putting on their own performances for one another. The main figure may be watching the stage or observing her fellow theatergoers while she herself becomes the subject of the man's gaze; meanwhile, the viewer, who is placed just beside the woman, takes in the entire scene. When Cassatt exhibited In the Loge in Boston in 1878, one critic praised it by writing that Cassatt's work "surpassed the strength of most men."

Oil on canvas - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Lydia Reading the Morning Paper (No. 1) (1878-79)

Lydia Reading the Morning Paper (No. 1) (1878-79)

Artwork description & Analysis: Cassatt's older sister, Lydia, was one of the artist's favorite models. In this painting, Lydia is seated in profile, with her gown and her face painted in the same loose, feathery brushstrokes as the background and the armchair that locks her diagonally posed figure into the asymmetrical composition. The typically Impressionist palette of white, rose, light blues, and fresh green evokes a light-hearted mood, yet this is also a serious moment: in showing her subject reading a newspaper, Cassatt alludes to the importance of women's growing literacy in the 19th century, to their increasing involvement in society beyond the home, and to their awareness of current events as they began to fight for voting rights.

Oil on canvas - Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska

More Mary Cassatt Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Mary Cassatt
Interactive chart with Mary Cassatt's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Édouard ManetÉdouard Manet
Thomas CoutureThomas Couture
Gustave CourbetGustave Courbet
Pierre-Auguste RenoirPierre-Auguste Renoir

Personal Contacts

Edgar DegasEdgar Degas
Camille PissarroCamille Pissarro
Berthe MorisotBerthe Morisot

Movements

ImpressionismImpressionism
JaponismJaponism
RealismRealism

Influences on Artist
Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt
Years Worked: 1875 - 1926
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Lucy BaconLucy Bacon

Personal Contacts

Edgar DegasEdgar Degas
Berthe MorisotBerthe Morisot

Movements

Post-ImpressionismPost-Impressionism
Feminist ArtFeminist Art

Useful Resources on Mary Cassatt

Videos

Books

Websites

Articles

More

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Mary Cassatt: A Life Recomended resource

By Nancy Mowll Matthews

Mary Cassatt: Impressionist Painter

By Lois Harris

paintings

May Cassatt: Prints and Drawings from the Collection of Ambroise Vollard Recomended resource

By Marc Rosen, Susan Pinsky, Nancy Mowll Matthews, and Sarah Bertalan

Mary Cassatt: Paintings and Prints

By Frank Getlein

More Interesting Books about Mary Cassatt
Friendship Was Their Medium

By Karen Rosenberg
The New York Times
May 29, 2014

Degas and Cassatt: The Untold Story of Their Friendship Recomended resource

By Stephanie Strasnick
ARTnews
March 27, 2014

Transient States: On Mary Cassatt Recomended resource

By Barry Schwabsky
The Nation
June 4, 2013

Fascination with a Medium, and the Lives of Women

By Martha Schwendener
The New York Times
January 25, 2013

More Interesting Articles about Mary Cassatt
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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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