"In art, what we want is the certainty that one spark of original genius shall not be extinguished."
Portrait of the Artist c. 1878
Mary Cassatt was born in Allegheny City (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennslyvania, USA on May 23, 1844. Her family was upper-middle-class, giving Mary the ability to travel Europe and later attend art school. Her schooling at the Pennslyvania Academy of Fine Arts lead her to believe one of the best ways she could learn was to copy the old masters.
The Mandolin Player c. 1872
In 1866, Mary finally got the opportunity to study abroad, but even then the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts would not accept female students. Cassatt was also let down by the Salon and the conservatism of the Paris art world in general. After spending time studying and refining her techniques throughout the rest of Europe, Cassatt returned to Paris once again. It was here, in 1875, that she reached a turning point in her work after a painting of her sister Lydia was rejected by the Salon. She could alter the painting and conform to the standards of the Salon or join the Independents, where she had been invited by her friend Degas.
"I accepted with joy. I hated conventional art. I began to live."
-Cassatt to her original biographer on accepting the invitaion by Degas
Little Girl in Blue Armchair c. 1878
In Degas, Cassatt found a life long friend and equal with whom she could share her thoughts and opinions about art and life. And in this group of artists she could flourish in creating art the way she wanted. Cassatt's work in Impressionism stands out because of her focus on women and children together. She was able to capture some intimate moments that were absolutely tender and charming.
Mother About to Wash Her Sleepy Child, 1880
Mother and Child, 1889
Susan Comforting the Baby No. 1, c.1881
Cassatt continued transforming her art in medium and style through the turn of the century when finally, in 1915, she was no longer able to paint because of her failing eye sight. She died in France on June 14, 1926.
Written by Brookette for the Art History Project Join the Project | AH Project Team | CommunityRelations