May 22, 2009

The Art of Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt (1844 – 1926) was an American painter and printmaker who settled in Paris in 1874, which was the year that the first Impressionist exhibition took place. Cassatt met the famous artist, Degas three years later and, through him, became a member of the Impressionist group. Cassatt came from a well-connected family and, in her later years, she did much to aid the Impressionists’ cause by finding American buyers for their works.

(Cassatt, Mary. The Child’s Bath.
c. 1893. oil on canvas.
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago.)

The Impressionists developed their own subject matter, celebrating modern Parisian life. They revolted against the traditional academic art subjects which were well accepted at the time. In place of morally uplifting heroic stories from the past, the Impressionists painted everyday life scenes of urban and suburban pastimes, chores and landscapes.

(Cassatt, Mary. Young Woman Sewing.
c. 1880. oil on canvas. Musee d’Orsay, Paris.)

The subject matter became less important than the way that it was painted. For most impressionists it was merely a vehicle for showing how light sparkled and changed, affecting color with highlights and shadows.

(Cassatt, Mary. Lilac in a Window.
c. 1880. oil on canvas.)

Cassatt exhibited the “Young Woman Sewing” at the final impressionist show. She was a talented painter, specializing in pictures of mothers with children, but she was an even greater graphic artist. Her colored etchings appear deceptively sparse and simple, but were executed with an impressive blend of subtlety and delicacy.

(Cassatt, Mary. Self Portrait. c. 1878. gouache on paper.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.)

The 1890s were Cassatt's busiest and most creative time. She had matured considerably and became more diplomatic and less blunt in her opinions. She also became a role model for young American artists who sought her advice. She is one of the extremely few female painters, who would become famous for her impressionist painting, during the movement and her work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy :)

Reference: King, R. Art. New York: Dk Publishing, 2008.