Mary Cassatt

American Impressionist Painter, Draftsman, Genre Painter,
Portraitist and Printmaker

1844 - 1926

(Self Portrait): 1880

Mary Cassatt Art Quotes

Cezanne is one of the most liberal artists I have ever seen... he grants that everyone may be as honest and as true to nature from their convictions; he doesn't believe that everyone should see alike.

I am independent! I can live and I love to work.

There's only one thing in life for a woman; it's to be a mother... A woman artist must be... capable of making primary sacrifices.

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.

The first sight of Degas' pictures was the turning point of my artistic life.

Sometimes it made Degas furious that he could not find a chink in my armor, and there would be months when we just could not see each other, and then something I painted would bring us together again.

If painting is no longer needed, it seems a pity that some of us are born into the world with such a passion for line and color.

At some future time I shall see New York the artist's ground. I think you will create an American School.

Mary Stevenson Cassatt was an American painter and printmaker. She lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists.

Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children.

Cassatt was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, which is now part of Pittsburgh. She was born into comfortable circumstances: her father, Robert Simpson Cassat (later Cassatt), was a successful stockbroker and land speculator, and her mother, Katherine Kelso Johnston, came from a banking family. The ancestral name had been Cossart. Cassatt was a distant cousin of artist Robert Henri. Cassatt was one of seven children, of which two died in infancy. Her family moved eastward, first to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, then to the Philadelphia area, where she began schooling at age six.

Cassatt grew up in an environment that viewed travel as integral to education; she spent five years in Europe and visited many of the capitals, including London, Paris, and Berlin. While abroad she learned German and French and had her first lessons in drawing and music. Her first exposure to French artists Ingres, Delacroix, Corot, and Courbet was likely at the Paris World's Fair of 1855. Also exhibited at the exhibition were Degas and Pissarro, both of whom would be her future colleagues and mentors.

Even though her family objected to her becoming a professional artist, Cassatt began studying painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the early age of fifteen. Part of her parents' concern may have been Cassatt's exposure to feminist ideas and the bohemian behavior of some of the male students. Although about twenty per cent of the students were female, most viewed art as a socially valuable skill; few of them were determined, as Cassatt was, to make art their career. She continued her studies during the years of the American Civil War. Among her fellow students was Thomas Eakins, later the controversial director of the Academy.

Impatient with the slow pace of instruction and the patronizing attitude of the male students and teachers, she decided to study the old masters on her own. She later said, "There was no teaching" at the Academy. Female students could not use live models and the principal training was primarily drawing from casts.

Cassatt decided to end her studies (at that time, no degree was granted). After overcoming her father's objections she moved to Paris in 1866, with her mother and family friends acting as chaperones. Since women could not yet attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, she applied to study privately with masters from the school and was accepted to study with Jean-Leon Gerome, a highly regarded teacher known for his hyper-realistic technique and his depiction of exotic subjects. A few months later Gerome would also accept Eakins as a student. Cassatt augmented her artistic training with daily copying in the Louvre (she obtained the required permit, which was necessary to control the "copyists", usually low-paid women, who daily filled the museum to paint copies for sale). The museum also served as a social meeting place for Frenchmen and American female students, who like Cassatt, were not allowed to attend cafes where the avant-garde socialized. In this manner, fellow artist and friend Elizabeth Jane Gardner met and married famed academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

Toward the end of 1866, she joined a painting class taught by Charles Chaplin, a noted genre artist. In 1868, Cassatt also studied with artist Thomas Couture, whose subjects were mostly romantic and urban. On trips to the countryside, the students drew from life, particularly the peasants going about their daily activities. In 1868 one of her paintings, 'A Mandoline Player', was accepted for the first time by the selection jury for the Paris Salon. This work is in the Romantic style of Corot and Couture, and is one of only two paintings from the first decade of her career that can be documented today. The French art scene was in a process of change, as radical artists such as Courbet and Manet tried to break away from accepted Academic tradition and the Impressionists were in their formative years. Cassatt's friend Eliza Haldeman wrote home that artists "are leaving the Academy style and each seeking a new way, consequently just now everything is Chaos". Cassatt, on the other hand, would continue to work in the traditional manner, submitting works to the Salon for over ten years, with increasing frustration.

The Mandolin Player

After a rejected submission in the previous year, "The Mandolin Player" is the first work to be accepted at the Salon (under the pseudonym Mary Stevenson.) Meanwhile she continues her studies with Thomas Couture at Villiers-le-Bel, near Ecouen, France.

Brother Alexander Cassatt marries Lois Buchanan, the niece of President Buchanan.

Returning to the United States in the late summer of 1870-as the Franco-Prussian War was starting-Cassatt lived with her family in Altoona. Her father continued to resist her chosen vocation, and paid for her basic needs, but not her art supplies. She placed two of her paintings in a New York gallery and found many admirers but no purchasers. She was also dismayed at the lack of paintings to study while staying at her summer residence. Cassatt even considered giving up art, as she was determined to make an independent living. She wrote in a letter of July, 1871, "I have given up my studio and torn up my father's portrait, and have not touched a brush for six weeks nor ever will again until I see some prospect of getting back to Europe. I am very anxious to go out west next fall and get some employment, but I have not yet decided where." She traveled to Chicago to try her luck but lost some of her early paintings in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Shortly afterward, her work attracted the attention of the Archbishop of Pittsburgh, who commissioned her to paint two copies of paintings by Correggio in Parma, Italy, advancing her enough money to cover her travel expenses and part of her stay. In her excitement she wrote, "O how wild I am to get to work, my fingers barely itch and my eyes water to see a fine picture again". With Emily Sartain, a fellow artist from a well-regarded artistic family from Philadelphia, Cassatt set out for Europe again.

Within months of her return to Europe in the autumn of 1871, Cassatt's prospects had brightened. Her painting 'Two Women Throwing Flowers During Carnival' was well received in the Salon of 1872, and was purchased. She attracted much favorable notice in Parma and was supported and encouraged by the art community there: "All Parma is talking of Miss Cassatt and her picture, and everyone is anxious to know her".

Two Women Throwing Flowers: 1872

Her piece Two Women Throwing Flowers During Carnival was well accepted in the Salon of 1872, and the work had also found a buyer. She received a good deal of positive attention in Parma and was backed up and promoted by the art world there.

After completing her commission for the archbishop, Cassatt traveled to Madrid and Seville, where she painted a group of paintings of Spanish subjects, including 'Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla'. In 1874, she made the decision to take up residence in France. She was joined by her sister Lydia who shared an apartment with her. Cassatt continued to express criticism of the politics of the Salon and the conventional taste that prevailed there. She was blunt in her comments, as reported by Sartain, who wrote: "she is entirely too slashing, snubs all modern art, disdains the Salon pictures of Cabanel, Bonnat, all the names we are used to revere". Cassatt saw that works by female artists were often dismissed with contempt unless the artist had a friend or protector on the jury, and she would not flirt with jurors to curry favor. Her cynicism grew when one of the two pictures she submitted in 1875 was refused by the jury, only to be accepted the following year after she darkened the background. She had quarrels with Sartain, who thought Cassatt too outspoken and self-centered, and eventually they parted. Out of her distress and self-criticism, Cassatt decided that she needed to move away from genre paintings and onto more fashionable subjects, in order to attract portrait commissions from American socialites abroad, but that attempt bore little fruit at first.

Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla: 1873

In this informal, introspective portrait, the simplicity of the sitter's pose and the background contrast with the bold, expressive strokes that enliven the embroidered veil. Mary Cassatt traveled to Seville, Spain, in 1872, lured by its picturesque scenery, low cost of living, and the opportunity to study Spanish masters such as Velázquez.

In 1877, both her entries were rejected, and for the first time in seven years she had no works in the Salon. At this low point in her career she was invited by Edgar Degas to show her works with the Impressionists, a group that had begun their own series of independent exhibitions in 1874 with much attendant notoriety. The Impressionists had no formal manifesto and varied considerably in subject matter and technique. They tended to prefer open air painting and the application of vibrant color in separate strokes with little pre-mixing, which allows the eye to merge the results in an "impressionistic" manner. The Impressionists had been receiving the wrath of the critics for several years. Henry Bacon, a friend of the Cassatt's, thought that the Impressionists were so radical that they were "afflicted with some hitherto unknown disease of the eye". They already had one female member, artist Berthe Morisot, who became Cassatt's friend and colleague.

Cassatt admired Degas, whose pastels had made a powerful impression on her when she encountered them in an art dealer's window in 1875. "I used to go and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art," she later recalled. "It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it." She accepted Degas' invitation with enthusiasm, and began preparing paintings for the next Impressionist show, planned for 1878, which (after a postponement because of the World's Fair) took place on April 10, 1879. She felt comfortable with the Impressionists and joined their cause enthusiastically, declaring: "we are carrying on a despairing fight and need all our forces". Unable to attend cafes with them without attracting unfavorable attention, she met with them privately and at exhibitions. She now hoped for commercial success selling paintings to the sophisticated Parisians who preferred the avant-garde. Her style had gained a new spontaneity during the intervening two years. Previously a studio-bound artist, she had adopted the practice of carrying a sketchbook with her while out-of-doors or at the theater, and recording the scenes she saw.

In 1877, Cassatt was joined in Paris by her father and mother, who returned with her sister Lydia. Mary valued their companionship, as neither she nor Lydia had married. Mary had decided early in life that marriage would be incompatible with her career. Lydia, who was frequently painted by her sister, suffered from recurrent bouts of illness, and her death in 1882 left Cassatt temporarily unable to work.

Lydia at the Tapestry Loom

Lydia Leaning on Her Arms: 1879

The image of social aristocrat is explored in 'Lydia Leaning on Her Arms', Seated in Loge with its subject provocatively leaning forward. Cassatt was in fact inspired by the romance and flirtation of this feature of the opera. An Art Critic points out that "She did enjoy socializing, and the theater afforded the most comfortable way of seeing one's friends-indeed seeing tout Paris-in a relaxed, festive atmosphere". This social aspect of opera drew Cassatt to her romantic and "relaxed" interpretations of young female opera viewers. The image of Lydia leaning forward, suggests anticipation, as if she is waiting to be engaged in conversation or inviting someone to stare at her. Her shoulders gently roll over, rather than the tense hunched back and angular arms of the figure in 'At the Opera'. She is on the edge of her seat, bringing herself to the front of the loge where she is easily observed. Her posture is completely relaxed, reflecting Cassatt's impression of the Opera as a relaxing, social, and romantic atmosphere. While there is more overt femininity, there is still confidence in Lydia's pose, for Cassatt remains optimistic of her future with Lydia. Cassatt's own desire for companionship is reflected in the flirtatious, romantic aspirations of her subjects. At least for the moment, though, she is satisfied with her sister Lydia filling this role of companion. Cassatt's increasing dependence on Lydia is further suggested in 'In the Box'.

Lydia Seated on a Porch Crocheting: ca 1882

The Garden: 1880
(aka Lydia Crocheting in the Garden at Marly)

This picture, painted in Cassatt's early Impressionist manner, represents the artist's sister, Lydia Simpson Cassatt (1837-1882). It was posed at Marly-le-Roi, some forty miles west of Paris, where the artist's family spent the summer of 1880. This work was included in the exhibition held by the French Impressionists in Paris in 1881.

The Cup of Tea: ca 1879

This picture represents Cassatt's sister, Lydia Simpson Cassatt (1837-1882), although, as the title suggests, it is less a specific portrait than a representation of a popular social ritual-one of the activities of contemporary life that became the mainstay of Cassatt's Impressionist imagery. Painted in the artist's early Impressionist manner, it is a fine example of her skill as a colorist. Great attention has been devoted to the effects of reflected color, for example, the luminous quality of the pink dress is reinforced by pink on the arm of the chair, the underside of the saucer, the white glove, and the woman's face. Through the sketchlike green background, unprimed canvas is visible in peripheral areas. While the use of the canvas as part of the composition contributes to the spontaneity of the image, it was criticized by the establishment, who thought this avant-garde innovation evidenced lack of finish.

This work may have been included in the 1879 French Impressionist exhibition in Paris. It clearly was in the exhibition staged by the same group in 1881, along with another image of Cassatt's sister titled Lydia Crocheting in the Garden at Marly.

Cassatt's father insisted that her studio and supplies be covered by her sales, which were still meager. Afraid of having to paint "potboilers" to make ends meet, Cassatt applied herself to produce some quality paintings for the next Impressionist exhibition. Three of her most accomplished works from 1878 were 'Portrait of the Artist' (self-portrait), 'Little Girl in a Blue Armchair', and 'Reading Le Figaro' (portrait of her mother).

Mary Cassatt Self Portrait: ca 1878

Cassatt painted very few self portraits, and this one is special because it shows how her work changed after she decided to please herself rather than the Salon jury. Her technique became freer and even experimented with different materials. Here she painted with opaque watercolors, called gouche.

Little Girl in a Blue Armchair: 1878

In Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, Mary Cassatt demonstrates her powers of observation in showing her young subject sprawled in a large, blue armchair. The smartly dressed little girl fidgets; in the next chair is her sleeping dog. The girl's pose has the naturalism of childhood that would later characterize many of Cassatt's paintings of children.

Pictorial structure and clarity are the foundation of Cassatt's art. Under Edgar Degas' tutelage, she began to collect and study Japanese prints; their patterns and asymmetric designs greatly influenced her work. Here she placed the girl, the focus of the composition, off-center. The armchairs form a pattern encircling an oddly shaped patch of gray floor in the middle of the picture. As in Japanese art, the forms are tilted up, and the edge of the canvas crops the image.

Cassatt's strong colors and energetic brushwork mark her connection with the French impressionists. In style and subject matter, her art is close to that of Degas and Edouard Manet. Degas, in fact, made suggestions about the composition of this painting and reworked parts of its background.

In Cassatt's pictures, light does not dissolve form. Instead, objects retain their mass and coherence with light enhancing their physical presence.

Reading Le Figaro 1878
(Portrait of Her Mother)

Cassatt's mother had always been one of her most valued supporters, travelling with her during her early studies in Europe and writing perceptively about Mary's projects. She was also the model for some of Cassatt's strongest portraits, of which this painting makes claim to be the finest.

The picture won approval from the whole family, and was sent back to Alexander in Philadelphia with a note from Mr. Cassatt: "I hope you will be pleased with the portrait, in fact I do not allow myself to doubt that you will be… Here there is but one opinion as to its excellence…"

In 1879, 'Reading Le Figaro' was exhibited by the Society of American Artists in New York, where it won critical acclaim: "Among the technically best pictures in the entire collection was Miss Cassatt's portrait, a capitally-drawn figure of an agreeable-looking, middle-aged lady… It is pleasant to see how well an ordinary person dressed in an ordinary way can be made to look…"

Painted just after her parents' move to Paris in 1877, the picture demonstrates Mrs. Cassatt's rapid acclimatization to her new surroundings. The Parisian newspaper symbolizes her adopted country and situates her within the intellectual and political life of France in a way usually confined to depictions of men.

Cassatt too was having to come to terms with her changed cultural surroundings; this picture affirms her new Impressionist allegiances in its use of the everyday and its robust, truthful representation.

Colors and forms are softer than before, although Cassatt's interest in contrasting patterns and planes still underlines the composition. Mrs. Cassatt's rounded shoulders are echoed and strengthened by the back of the armchair, while her head is centered against the plain creamy wall. The great expanse of white dress gives the figure a solid, even monumental aspect, despite the unassuming, self-absorbed pose.

The latter is reinforced by the mirror reflection, which adds complexity to the play of angles and spatial depth and counteracts the surface spread of pale tones. In these ways Cassatt avoids blandness or crudity, modulating between dark and light tones with great control.

Degas had considerable influence on Cassatt. She became extremely proficient in the use of pastels, eventually creating many of her most important works in this medium. Degas also introduced her to etching, of which he was a recognized master. The two worked side-by-side for awhile, and her draftsmanship gained considerable strength under his tutelage. He depicted her in a series of etchings recording their trips to the Louvre. She had strong feelings for him but learned not to expect too much from his fickle and temperamental nature. The sophisticated and well-dressed Degas, then forty-five, was a welcome dinner guest at the Cassatt residence.

The Impressionist exhibit of 1879 was the most successful to date, despite the absence of Renoir, Sisley, Manet and Cezanne, who were attempting once again to gain recognition at the Salon. Through the efforts of Gustave Caillebotte, who organized and underwrote the show, the group made a profit and sold many works, although the criticism continued as harsh as ever. The Revue des Deux Mondes wrote, "M. Degas and Mlle. Cassatt are, nevertheless, the only artists who distinguish themselves...and who offer some attraction and some excuse in the pretentious show of window dressing and infantile daubing".

Cassatt displayed eleven works, including 'La Loge'. Although critics claimed that Cassatt's colors were too bright and that her portraits were too accurate to be flattering to the subjects, her work was not savaged as was Monet's, whose circumstances were the most desperate of all the Impressionists at that time. She used her share of the profits to purchase a work by Degas and one by Monet. She exhibited in the Impressionist Exhibitions that followed in 1880 and 1881, and she remained an active member of the Impressionist circle until 1886. In 1886, Cassatt provided two paintings for the first Impressionist exhibition in the United States, organized by art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. Her friend Louisine Elder married Harry Havemeyer in 1883, and with Cassatt as advisor, the couple began collecting the Impressionists on a grand scale. Much of their vast collection is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She also made several portraits of family members during that period, of which 'Portrait of Alexander Cassatt and His Son Robert Kelso' (1885) is one of her best regarded. Cassatt's style then evolved, and she moved away from Impressionism to a simpler, more straightforward approach. She began to exhibit her works in New York galleries as well. After 1886, Cassatt no longer identified herself with any art movement and experimented with a variety of techniques.

La Loge: ca 1880

A number of artists, including Degas, Renoir, and Cassatt, depicted women at the theater. While Degas took many of his subjects from the stage and orchestra pit, Cassatt and Renoir focused on the audience. Reflected behind these two young women are rings of theater seats and a massive chandelier; clearly, they are sitting in luxurious boxes with mirrored walls. Like Cassatt herself, they belong to wealthy, proper families. Their careful posture is reserved, almost stiff with decorum. It would have distinguished them, despite their bare shoulders, from some other women in the audience who were coquettes brought to the opera by their lovers.

Not all the display at the theater occurred on stage, and the young women are equally on view, sitting forward to be seen. But the social code prohibits proper, unmarried young women from looking at others. The woman holding the fan is probably Mary Ellison, a friend of the artist visiting from Philadelphia. Even from behind this screen her gaze is cast modestly down. The other woman, perhaps the daughter of poet Stephane Mallarme, is more forthright than her companion. The two seem to be mirror reflections of each other; while the young Philadelphian hides shyly, her friend is poised with self-confidence to receive the attention of other theater patrons.

Two Women in a Theater Box: 1881-82

Louisine W. Havemeyer: 1896

Portrait of Alexander J. Cassat and His Son Robert Kelso Cassatt: 1884-85

Mrs. Alexander Cassatt

Cassatt's popular reputation is based on an extensive series of rigorously drawn, tenderly observed, yet largely unsentimental paintings and prints on the theme of the mother and child. The earliest dated work on this subject is the 'Gardner Held by His Mother' although she had painted a few earlier works on the theme. Some of these works depict her own relatives, friends, or clients, although in her later years she generally used professional models in compositions that are often reminiscent of Italian Renaissance depictions of the 'Madonna and Child'. After 1900, she concentrated almost exclusively on mother-and-child subjects.

Gardner Held by his Mother: 1882-1892

'Gardner Held by His Mother' dry point, circa 1887, on laid paper with unidentified watermark, signed in pencil, with full margins, minor surface soiling (primarily at the sheet edges), occasional rippling and printing creases in the margins, a foxmark in the upper right margin, hinge remains at the reverse of the lower left and upper corners, otherwise in very good condition.

In 1891, she exhibited a series of highly original colored drypoint and aquatint prints, including 'Woman Bathing' and 'The Coiffure', inspired by the Japanese masters shown in Paris the year before. Cassatt was attracted to the simplicity and clarity of Japanese design, and the skillful use of blocks of color. In her interpretation, she used primarily light, delicate pastel colors and avoided black (a "forbidden" color among the Impressionists). A. Breeskin, of the Smithsonian Institution, notes that these colored prints, "now stand as her most original contribution... adding a new chapter to the history of graphic arts...technically, as color prints, they have never been surpassed".

Woman Bathing: 1890-1891

In the late 1880's, Mary Cassatt began to explore the theme of women at their toilette. 'Woman Bathing' is part of the 1891 series of ten prints that explores the private activities of women. 'Woman Bathing' displays the same flat planes and liquid color that Cassatt had particularly admired in the exhibition of Japanese prints she had seen at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

Although Cassatt depicted few nudes during her long career, 'Woman Bathing' demonstrates a remarkable sensitivity in this genre. The sensuous curve of the woman's back, drawn in very simple lines, highlights the artist's impeccable draftsmanship. Cassatt often credited the print medium for refining her drawing skills; drawing on a plate requires strict control as the surface mercilessly retains every mark.

The Coiffure: 1890-1891

In The Coiffure, Mary Cassatt depicts a young woman in a private moment, as she pins up her hair for the day. This print is part of a series of ten color prints that Cassatt exhibited at Durand Ruel's gallery in Paris in 1891. Earlier, Cassatt had seen an exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and became entranced by their everyday themes and spare beauty.

The Coiffure is one of two nude studies in Cassatt's color series. Although she did not often represent the nude, Cassatt's simple handling of line and form confirms her skill in drawing the human figure. The straight lines of the mirror and wall and the chair's vertical stripes contrast with the graceful curves of the woman's body. The rose and peach color scheme enhances her sinuous beauty by highlighting her delicate skin tone. Cassatt also emphasizes the nape of the woman's neck, perhaps in reference to a traditional Japanese sign of beauty.

Cassatt used the theme of 'The Coiffure' in a number of her other works, for example, her painting, 'Girl Arranging Her Hair', portrays a red-haired model who resembles this one in The Coiffure.

The 1890's 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. Among them was Lucy A. Bacon, whom Cassatt introduced to Camille Pissarro. Though the Impressionist group disbanded, Cassatt still had contact with some of the members, including Renoir, Monet, and Pissarro. As the new century arrived, she served as an advisor to several major art collectors and stipulated that they eventually donate their purchases to American art museums. In recognition of her contributions to the arts, France awarded her the Legion d'honneur in 1904. Although instrumental in advising American collectors, recognition of her art came more slowly in the United States. Even among her family members back in America, she received little recognition and was totally overshadowed by her famous brother.

Mary Cassatt's brother, Alexander Cassatt, (president of the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1899 until his death) died in 1906. She was shaken, as they had been close, but she continued to be very productive in the years leading up to 1910. An increasing sentimentality is apparent in her work of the 1900's; her work was popular with the public and the critics, but she was no longer breaking new ground, and her Impressionist colleagues who once provided stimulation and criticism were dying off. She was hostile to such new developments in art as post-Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism.

Portrait of Alexander Cassatt: 1880

Alexander Cassatt

A trip to Egypt in 1910 impressed Cassatt with the beauty of its ancient art, but was followed by a crisis of creativity; not only had the trip exhausted her, but she declared herself "crushed by the strength of this Art", saying, "I fought against it but it conquered, it is surely the greatest Art the past has left us ... how are my feeble hands to ever paint the effect on me." Diagnosed with diabetes, rheumatism, neuralgia, and cataracts in 1911, she did not slow down, but after 1914 she was forced to stop painting as she became almost blind. Nonetheless, she took up the cause of women's suffrage, and in 1915, she showed eighteen works in an exhibition supporting the movement.

She died on June 14, 1926 at Chateau de Beaufresne, near Paris, and was buried in the family vault at Le Mesnil-Theribus, France. Her paintings have sold for as much as $2.9 million.

From: Wikipedia

Additional Paintings of Mary Cassatt

A Baby Smiling at Two Young Women: 1873

A Corner of the Loge aka In the Box: 1879

A Kiss For Baby Anne: ca 1897

A Musical Party: 1874

Afternoon Tea Party: 1890-1891

'Afternoon Tea Party' is part of a series of ten color prints in which Mary Cassatt explores the domestic activities and roles of women in the nineteenth century. In this scene, a young woman serves tea and cakes to a visitor. Women typically called on one another in the afternoons, and serving tea was a ritual that often included discussion and relaxation.

The women in 'Afternoon Tea Party' do not seem entirely engaged with one another. While the hostess bends forward expectantly to offer her guest a teacake, the visitor seems to accept only reluctantly. Her arms remain close to her body, and her eyes look down at the plate rather than at the open face of her hostess. The fact that she still wears both her coat and hat suggests that she will not stay long. Perhaps this represents a duty visit rather than a friendly chat over tea.

At The Opera: 1880

Mary Cassatt's At the Opera (1878-1879) has become a symbol for feminism for its ability to "subvert dominate gender roles". Here is a fiercely independent woman sitting alone in a loge, attending the opera to become educated, taking on the male action of observing. Looking at her pose, the subject is in control with the male gesture of holding the binoculars. Her hunched back is masculine, rather than the soft, rounded shoulders that typified female depiction. This woman is placed alone in the box, conveying independence, but at the same time isolation. The sharp angular bend of the arm holding the opera glasses conveys masculinity, rather than feminine softness. While Cassatt places a man in the background watching the subject, the woman's posture trivializes him in that she defiantly does not invite anyone to join her: she is absorbed in the intellectual activity of observing.

Another View

If we come back now to the seeming confidence of Cassatt in 'At the Opera' we have to ask, was she truly capable of living as the isolated, independent New Woman? A reassessment of the pose of the subject suggests isolation and discomfort, belying the facade of confident self-reliance. It does not show the artist most at ease with her subject matter. This is Cassatt's attempt to break out from the influence of Degas and Renoir and carve her own niche at the opera by portraying an independent, masculine woman. And while it seems to be empowering that the subject ignore the man in the background's prying eyes, according to Broude, it is more likely that the object of his gaze is in fact the daringly dressed woman who appears to the right of the main subject's hat. Indeed, the lack of comfort in the woman's posture reflects Cassatt's own uncertainty in the direction in her life, as the preparatory sketch as well as the final product emphasizes a hunched over, strained back. The elbow awkwardly rests on the banister, while her hand is not quite relaxed in holding the fan in her lap. These tensions give the woman a sense of unease suggesting that in the end, she is not satisfied in her role as a New Woman, and neither was Cassatt. Her words from late in life are most telling. By 1917, when strides had been made in women's rights, Cassatt can only reflect that, "In looking back over my life, how elated I would have been if in my youth I had been told I would have the place in the world of Art I have acquired, and now at the end of life how little it seems, what difference does it all make?" Her youthful desire for complete independence ultimately did not satisfy Cassatt who became dependent on her sister. After Lydia's death, she had to content herself with the youth, flirtation, and romance she imbued in her girls of the opera.

At the Window: 1889

Auguste Reading to Her Daughter: 1910

(aka Profile of Lydia Cassatt): 1880

Baby Bill: 1890

Baby Bill in Cap and Shift: 1889-90

Baby in His Mother's Arms Sucking His Finger: 1889

Baby Reaching For An Apple: 1893

Baby's First Caress: 1891

Baby Smiling up at Her Mother

Bacchante: 1872

Bathing the Young Heir: ca 1891

Breakfast in Bed: ca 1897

Beginning in the 1880's, Cassatt depicted the subject which absorbed her for the rest of her career: the mother and child. She often dealt with tension between a mother's focused attention on a child and a child's desire to explore the world. 'In Breakfast in Bed' the mother gazes at the child wrapped in her arms, while the child gazes out into the room. By focusing closely on the figures, Cassatt draws the viewer into the intimate scene.

Bust of Ellen with Bows in Her Hair: ca 1898

Bust of Francoise Looking Down: ca 1908

Mary Cassatt
(Self Portrait): 1880

Mary Cassatt's confident watercolor, one of her few self-portraits, was created around 1880, a year after she began exhibiting with the French impressionists. Cassatt used her art to address the many roles of the modern woman-as mother, as intellectual, and here, as professional artist. Though dressed fashionably, Cassatt is not content to just be admired, but returns the viewer's gaze. Concealing her sketching surface from view, Cassatt playfully reverses expectations, suggesting in this self-portrait that it is the viewer who is being appraised by the artist.

The composition of Cassatt's work reveals its modernity. Calligraphic dashes of green in the right background suggest wallpaper, while the wash of rich yellow at the left evokes sunlight pouring over the artist's shoulders and casting her face into shadow. Bold strokes that emphasize color, mood, and motion celebrate the artist's touch. Although Cassatt does not depict her hands, she shows evidence of their rapid work.

Celeste in a Brown Hat: ca 1891

Child Drinking Milk: ca 1868

Child In A Straw Hat: 1886

Later in her career Mary Cassatt often painted the theme of a little girl wearing an oversized hat in poses similar to this one. However this child's serious expression sets the painting apart from other portraits. Most of the girls in Cassatt's paintings of children in hats appear to be willing and happy models; they smile and wear elaborate bonnets and frilly dresses. In 'Child in a Straw Hat', the little girl wears a plain, gray pinafore and a large, simple straw hat. Her furrowed brow and protruding upper lip suggest that she is impatient; she may have been taken away from her play in order to pose.

Child In Orange Dress: 1902

Child with Bangs in a Blue Dress: ca 1910

Child with Red Hat: 1901

Children in a Garden: 1878

An American-born artist who spent most of her life in France, Cassatt (1844-1926) is well known for her images of women and children in domestic settings. She revisits that familiar theme in 'Children in the Garden', which she exhibited in the eighth Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1886. Enclosed in a private garden, a nursemaid sits on a bench knitting, while one of her charges sleeps in a nearby carriage and the other plays at her feet.

Children Playing on the Beach: 1885

'Children Playing on a Beach' demonstrates Mary Cassatt's skill at capturing the natural attitudes of children. The intent expression on one child's face, the lowered angles of their heads, and the set of their shoulders suggest complete concentration on their activities. Especially appealing is the awkward way in which the toddler on the left grips the long handle of her shovel while holding the rim of the bucket with her other pudgy hand.

Cassatt's interest in structure and strong sense of patterning comes through clearly in this painting. Her careful brushstrokes follow the contours of the girls' arms, legs, and heads, creating the solid areas of color typical of her work after 1883. To keep the center of attention on the little girls, Cassatt treated the seascape background more loosely; the boats on the ocean melt into a haze of natural light. She emphasized surface pattern by repeating the accents of dark dresses under crisp white pinafores.

Children Playing with a Cat: 1908

Clarissa Turned Left with Her Hand to Her Ear: 1895

(aka Clarissa Turned Right with Her Hand to Her Ear): 1891-92

Denise at Her Dressing Table: ca 1908-09

Holding a hand mirror backed with green moire, a pretty auburn-haired young woman-apparently a professional model that Mary Cassatt painted several times-studies her coiffure in a dressing table mirror. Although Cassatt portrayed a commonplace moment in daily life, she implied the broader theme of female vanity by emphasizing the play of reflections.

Many of Cassatt's late works signal her declining artistic skills (she stopped painting in 1914 because of failing eyesight). Yet 'Denise at Her Dressing Table' shows her to have been in command of composition and the handling of paint as late as 1908-09. The model's head and face are especially appealing, and there are ravishing chromatic passages, notably in the soft pink-lavender dressing gown. The unfinished upper right corner reveals the gray ground and Cassatt's rapid brushwork.

Dorothy in a Very Large Bonnet and a Dark Coat: ca 1904

Ellen Mary Cassatt in a White Coat: ca 1896

Ellen with Bows in Her Hair Looking Right: ca 1899

Elsie Cassatt Holding a Big Dog: ca 1880

Elsie in a Blue Chair: 1890

Emmie and Her Child: 1889

Francoise Wearing a Big White Hat: ca 1908

Gardner and Ellen

Girl Arranging Her Hair: 1886

Girl in a Large Hat: 1908

Girl with a Banjo: 1893-94

Head of a Young Girl: 1876

Head of a Young Woman: 1873

Head of Francoise Looking Down: ca 1908

Head of Margot: ca 1902

Young children were among Cassatt's favorite subjects, though she avoided sentimental portrayals in favor of emphasizing her models' freshness, intelligence, and energy.

This pastel is one in a series of portraits of children who lived in the French village where Cassatt spent her summers.

Head of Sara in a Bonnet Looking Left: 1901

Head of Simone in a Large Plumes Hat Looking Left: 1903

Helen Sears: 1907

Helen Sears was the daughter of Sarah Choate Sears, a gifted photographer and important supporter of the arts in Boston and Mary Cassatt's close friend since the early 1890's. Sarah brought Helen to Paris in 1907 after the tragic death of Helen's brother in an automobile accident. Cassatt, too, had recently lost close family members and no doubt produced this portrait of 17-year-old Helen not as a commission, but as a token of condolence and affection, as suggested by the dedication-signature at the bottom left-"to HS, with love, Mary Cassatt."

Helene de Septeuil: 1889

In The Garden: 1893

In The Omnibus: ca 1891

Cassatt's early prints were etchings and drypoints in black and white. In the spring of 1890, she was impressed by a large exhibition of Japanese color wood-block prints and illustrated books at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Later that year she set out to imitate Japanese printmaking and the Japanese aesthetic through the design and production of ten drypoints with color aquatint. The ten prints illustrate the daily events of a contemporary Parisian woman's life-her toilette, the care of children, an appointment with her seam-stress, afternoon tea-domestic themes portrayed in Japanese prints and found in the artist's own work in other media.

Cassatt's ten color prints displayed technical innovation and were admired by her contemporaries for their elegant design and delicate use of color. Unlike the Japanese woodblock prints that inspired their creation, Cassatt's were made using multiple copper plates. 'In the Omnibus' combined impressions from three plates-one for the drypoint outline and some aquatint colors and two for the other areas of color. Cassatt mixed colors by hand and painted them onto the plate before printing. Perfect registration of the separate plates was essential, and Cassatt was assisted in this arduous task by a young, skilled professional, M. Leroy, whom she acknowledged in the pencil inscription on each signed impression.

Interior of a Tramway Passing a Bridge: 1890-91

Jules Being Dried by His Mother: 1900

Jules Standing by His Mother: 1901

Lady at the Tea Table: 1883

The sitter of this painting is Mrs. Robert Moore Riddle (died 1892), the former Mary Johnston Dickinson, a first cousin of the artist's mother. Mary Cassatt began this portrait in 1883 and finished it two years later. The sitter's daughter objected to the size of her mother's nose in the picture, and hence, it was put away by the artist until 1914. When it was shown to Louisine W. Havemeyer in 1914, the artist was encouraged to exhibit it. It was shown later that year at Durand-Ruel Galleries in Paris, and created a sensation. In 1915, the painting was included in an exhibition of works by the French Impressionists held at Knoedler and Co. in New York.

Lady with a Fan
(aka Portrait of Anne Charlotte Gaillard): ca 1880

Leontine in a Pink Fluffy Hat: 1898

Lilacs in a Window: ca 1880

Little Ann Sucking Her Finger Embraced by Her Mother: 1897

Little Girl in a Large Red Hat: ca 1881

Louise Nursing Her Child: 1898

Madame Meerson and Her Daughter: ca 1899

Reynolda House was founded as an educational institution. The collection has therefore been the subject of intensive and continuous research. When acquired, the pastel was thought to be a portrait of a Madame Meerson and her daughter, and was so titled. In the 1980's, research by Reynolda House Founding Director Barbara Millhouse led to the identification of the sitters and a more accurate date. Although Mary Cassatt has received much scholarly attention and popular acclaim over the years, each generation advances both primary research and interpretation. By updating Madame Gaillard, Reynolda House participates in the community of scholars of American art.

Margaret Milligan Sloan: 1894

Margot in a Dark Red Costume Seated on a Round Backed Chair: 1902

Margot In Big Bonnett and Red Dress: ca 1902

Marie-Therese Gaillard: 1894

Mary Ellison Embroidering: 1877

Maternal Kiss: 1896

Maternite: ca 1890

Moise Dreyfus: 1879

Mother About To Wash Her Sleepy Child: 1880

Mother and Child: 1889

Mother and Child: 1893

The fact that Mary Cassatt, the daughter of an American banker, succeeded in securing a leading position among the French Impressionists, with whom she began to exhibit in 1879, is all the more remarkable as she was by no means averse to the seductions of her privileged social position. She owes this unusual fame, which outlasted her death, not only to her high gifts but also to her strong character.

She never excluded herself from the cool criticism to which she subjected the work of others. In this she was quite similar to her friend and mentor among the Impressionists, Edgar Degas. She shared with Degas an enthusiasm for the Japanese colored woodcut, which she got to know with him especially at the exhibition of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1890, and which inspired her to create a sequence of ten color etchings.

The work of Degas and the Japanese woodcut are also decisive influences on the pastel picture 'Mother and Child', done in 1893. The very choice of the pastel as a medium points to Degas, as does her free treatment of the paint, which leaves disclosed the sketchy brushwork. Also the blurred profile of the mother with its summary simplification is close to Degas' manner. On the other hand, the clearly distinguished planes, which are alien to the Impressionism of the 70's - and Mary Cassatt's colleague Berthe Morisot is a good example of this - it presupposes a knowledge of the Japanese woodcut.

The artist painted the same model with her child on numerous occasions.

Mother and Child: 1908

Mother and Child
(Baby Getting Up from His Nap): ca 1899

Completed at the latest in 1899, when it was bought by the Parisian dealer Durand-Ruel, this work is one of the artist's most ambitious compositions. The identity of the sitters is not known, although the child's name was "Jules" and he appears in other works around this same time. The furniture and tea service belonged to the artist and also appear in other works executed during this time.

Mother and Child: ca 1890

Completed at the latest in 1899, when it was bought by the Parisian dealer Durand-Ruel, this work is one of the artist's most ambitious compositions. The impressionist painter Mary Cassatt devoted much of her career to a modern redefinition of the ancient theme of motherhood. 'Mother and Child' is a particularly vibrant example of Cassatt's signature work. She was an American artist of international influence, the only American participant in the French impressionist movement, and an independent spirit who achieved her own unique vision of the aspiration she shared with French colleagues Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet, and that was to express the heroism of modern life.

Although unpretentious in its literal details, the scene nonetheless achieves an aura of elemental dignity. In a gesture of unaffected tenderness, a plain-featured woman wearing a simple cotton print dress embraces her sleepy toddler, a blond robust youngster of indeterminate sex dressed in a simple white cotton shirt, and nestles the child firmly on her lap. The two figures are presented close-up, their contours filling the picture frame. Behind them the artist has rendered the barest of interior detail in vigorous, sketchy brushwork: cropped views of a straight back chair, a small cloth-draped wash stand holding an undecorated ewer and basin, and in the upper right-hand corner, the edge of a wood-shuttered window.

Cassatt's choice of subjects and setting evoked for her upper middleclass audience a picture of the contemporary and the commonplace. The mother's appearance suggested that of a country woman or domestic servant. She and her nondescript furnishings, as well as the studied casualness of impressionist brushwork removed the scene far from the sacred, picturesque, or refined realms familiar to concurrent Salon conceptions of motherhood.

Cassatt also kept away from conventional sentimentality by imposing a solemnity of rhythm and stable unity upon the moment-to-moment sensations of touching, holding, and embracing. Conscious and unconscious caresses proceed in a litany of check against nodding head, small hand grasping mother's chin, small relaxed hand and arm resting atop mother's large anchoring hand, with the latter in its turn set atop her second hand as it muscularly grasps the baby's thigh. The two bodies lean into one another forming an easy yet firm dovetail that functions compositionally and symbolically as an indissoluble unit.

Mother and Child in a Boat: ca 1909

Mother and Child Reading: ca 1913

Mother and Child Smiling at Each Other: 1908

Mother and Child
(The Oval Mirror): 1901

Completed at the latest in 1899, when it was bought by the Parisian dealer Durand-Ruel, this work has been called at times "The Florentine Madonna" because the pose is similar to a typical Italian Madonna and Child. The identity of the sitters is not known, although the child's name was "Jules" and he appears in other works around this same time.

Mother and Children: 1901

Mother Berthe Holding Her Baby: 1900

Mother Combing Her Child's Hair: 1879

Mother Feeding Child: 1898

After about 1893, Cassatt's attention to the special bond between mother and child came to the fore in her work. In this ambitious sheet, the suggestion of the woman as a secular "modern Madonna" is explicit. Cassatt, however, seemed equally interested in creating a childhood genre scene and exploring textures, patterns, and still-life details. The delicate handling of the medium reflects her susceptibility to French Rococo pastels, such as those by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, drawings that are notable for their precision, clarity, and light painterly touch.

Mother Combing Sara's Hair: ca 1901

Mother Holding a Child in Her Arms: ca 1890

Mothers and their children were a common theme in Cassatt's oeuvre and can be read as modern secular versions of traditional representations of the 'Virgin Mary and Child', divested of all religious symbolism and transformed into everyday domestic scenes. The composition, which has a reduced color range, presents a little boy in the arms of his mother. She has her back to us and seems to be concentrated on the toilet of the child, who is looking straight at the viewer. The monumental figures are located in a space that is barely described save for the pitcher and the washbasin on the left, although the armchair-the back of which occupies the foreground of the composition-suggests it is a pleasant bourgeois interior.

Alongside Berthe Morisot and Marie Bracquemond, Cassatt was one of the few female artists associated with Impressionism. Although she began her artistic training in her home country most of her career developed in France, where she settled in 1865. In 1877 she met Degas, who invited her to join the group of painters that had organized the first Impressionist exhibition three years before. Cassatt took part in four of the eight group exhibitions to great acclaim and became very active in the field of engraving, strongly influenced by Japanese prints. Her portraits, domestic scenes, theatre interiors and maternities, whose models came from her immediate personal and family circles, offer a peaceful vision of the everyday activities of women from her own social class, who she depicted arriving at the theatre and the opera, welcoming friends at home or reading in comfortable interiors.

Mother Holding Her Baby: ca 1914

Mother Jeanne Nursing Her Baby: ca_1907-08

Mother Looking Down Embracing Both Her Children: 1905-08

Mary Cassatt is best known for her images of mothers and children. In 1872 the Philadelphia-born artist settled permanently in France where she soon became associated with the group of avant-garde artists known as the Impressionists. Interested in light and spontaneity, Cassatt often used pastel because of the freedom it allowed without dealing with the lengthy drying time of paint. As a woman, Cassatt was limit by the social norms of the time that prevented a "proper" woman from accessing subject and locations frequently seen in the work of her male contemporaries-nude models, bars, and dance halls. Instead, she depicted the domestic sphere of families and homes more readily accessible to her.

Mother Playing with Her Child

Cassatt applied pastel in thick strokes and blended it into a very fine texture and sometimes into the paper itself, as did Edgar Degas. Her repetition of a particular subject-women with children-also may have been inspired by Degas, who reiterated themes, such as ballerinas and bathing women, in accordance with his credo: "It is essential to do the same subject over again, ten times, a hundred times. Nothing in art must seem to be chance, but even movement." Cassatt used this pastel as the basis for the last of her major prints which remained unfinished.

Mother Rose Nursing Her Child: ca 1900

Mother's Kiss: ca 1891

In imitation of Japanese design, Cassatt drew her figures without shadows, and, as in this color print, often placed them in an empty space undefined by western perspective. Like her print, 'The Bath', this mother-and-child subject evolved from a previous work-the pastel, 'Baby's First Caress'.

Mother Sara and the Baby: ca 1901

Mother Sara and the Baby: ca 1901
(Counter Proof)

Mother Wearing a Sunflower on Her Dress: ca 1905

Mother's Goodnight Kiss: 1888

Mrs Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa Reading: 1876

Mrs Gardner Cassatt in Black: 1880

Mrs Robert S. Cassatt
(aka Katherine Kelson Johnston Cassatt): 1889

This painting was exhibited for the first of five successive years at the Paris Salon in 1872. Became member of the Impressionist group in 1877, and exhibited with them 1879-1881 and 1886. Cassatt greatly admired Gustave Courbet, but was particularly allied with the Impressionists. Edgar Degas was her close friend and influenced her style in the late 1870's.

Nude Child: 1890-91
(aka Maternal Caress)

In her clear-headed treatment of mothers and infants, Cassatt was, for her time, entirely alone. "The bunch of English and French daubers have put them in such stupid and pretentious poses!" complained the critic J.-K. Huysmans, contrasting them with Cassatt's "irreproachable pearls of Oriental sweetness."

Nurse and Child: 1896-97

Nurse Reading: 1895

In 1894, Cassatt purchased and renovated the Chateau de Beaufresne at Mesnil-Theribus, about fifty miles northwest of Paris. It became her country retreat for the rest of her life. Her increased interest in landscape settings in her pastels may reflect an appreciation of the outdoors cultivated at the chateau.

Most of Cassatt's pastels, like this one, have retained their original brilliance, while her papers, which were colored with unstable dyes, have faded.

Offering the Panale to the Bullfighter: 1873

Painted in Seville, Spain, this picture depicts a young woman serving a refreshing panale (honeycomb or sponge sugar dipped in water) to a bullfighter. Cassatt had traveled to Spain to study the work of Old Masters. With its bold handling of paint and rich colors, 'Offering the Panale' demonstrates the influence of such seventeenth-century painters as Diego Velázquez.

Portrait of an Elderly Lady: 1883

Portrait of a Lady
(aka Miss Mary Ellison): 1877

Portrait of a Lady, Seville: 1873

Portrait of a Woman: 1872

Mary Cassatt painted 'Portrait of a Woman' in 1872, during an eight-month stay in Parma, Italy. The painting is dedicated to Carlo Raimondi, a teacher at the Parma Academy from whom Cassatt rented studio space and probably had lessons in printmaking. It was during this, her third trip abroad, that Cassatt decided to settle in Europe permanently.

Painted several years before Cassatt espoused Impressionism, this portrait shows the influence of Italian Baroque painting, especially in its golden light, classical drapery, and, above all, in the figure's monumental proportions. 'Portrait of a Woman' is one of several paintings the artist made of monumental, costumed women during her studies in Parma. Its sense of three- dimensionality differs from Cassatt's later work, in which space is flattened. Throughout her artistic career, Cassatt frequently used women and children as subject matter and depicted them with an unusual degree of understanding and sympathy. Like Edgar Degas, Cassatt was more interested in the everyday subject matter and gesture espoused by the Impressionists than she was concerned with theories about light and brushwork technique. She had a remarkable gift for suggesting emotional connections or states; in this painting, the woman's pensive expression has a poignancy that reveals that this talent developed early.

Portrait of a Woman: 1873

Portrait of a Woman: 1881-83

Mary Cassatt's subjects were mainly women and children. Her emphasis was less on character and more on the reflections and shadows on skin and costumes for which she had the greatest feeling and understanding. This unfinished, freely painted portrait reveals her interest in Japanese prints in its strong outlines and bold format.

Portrait of a Young Girl: ca 1900

Portrait of an Italian Lady: 1878

Portrait of Madame Sisley: 1873

Portrait of Marie Louise Durand Ruel: 1911

Portrait of Mrs William Harrison: ca 1890

Portrait of Mrs Havemeyer and Her Daughter Electra: ca 1895

Profile of an Italian Woman: ca 1873

Reine Lefebvre Holding a Nude Baby: 1902-03

(aka Woman with a Red Zinnia): 1892

Roman Girl

Sara and Her Mother with the Baby: ca 1901

Sara Holding a Cat: ca 1908

Sara in a Large Flowered Hat Looking Right Holding Her Dog: ca 1901

Sara with her Dog: 1901

Simone in a White Bonnet: 1901

Sketch of Ellen Mary Cassatt in a Big Blue Hat: ca 1905

Sleepy Baby: ca 1910

Susan Comforting the Baby: ca 1881

Strongly encouraged by her dear friend Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt was one of only two women and the only American to join the Impressionists. She focused on the domestic world of women and children, rendering them in a straightforward manner free from sentimentality. Here, the radical composition and the variety of brush strokes-from smooth and exacting to sketchy and dynamic-enhance both the intimacy and the drama of an everyday scene.

Tea: 1879-80

The Banjo Lesson: 1894

The Barefooted Child: 1898

The Bath: 1891-92

The Bath: ca 1891

In April 1890, an exhibition of Japanese woodcuts at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris inspired Mary Cassatt to begin experimenting with different print techniques. Using aquatint, drypoint, etching, and hand-coloring, Cassatt attempted to capture the flat planes and simple lines of Japanese woodcuts. After painstakingly overseeing the execution of each print, Cassatt exhibited the resulting series of ten at the Durand Ruel Gallery in Paris the next year. Together, the prints combine the spare beauty of Japanese woodcut designs with innovative color patterns and finely tuned drawing.

'The Bath' was Cassatt's first effort in the series, and the only one, according to her, in which she truly tried to imitate Japanese design. She produced seventeen different states for 'The Bath', more than for any other print in the series. The subject, a mother and child, is a favorite of Cassatt's, and in the series as a whole, she opens a window on women's private lives in the nineteenth century.

The Boating Party: 1893-94

This bold composition reveals the influence of the flat, patterned surfaces, simplified color blocks, and unusual angles of Japanese prints, which enjoyed a huge vogue in Paris in the late 1800's. The dark figure of the man compresses the picture onto the flat plane of the canvas, and the horizon is pushed to the top, flattening space in the distance. Our high vantage gives us an oblique, bird's-eye view into the boat. Its form is divided into decorative shapes by the intersection of its horizontal supports.

After 1893, Cassatt began to spend many summers on the Mediterranean coast at Antibes. Under its intense sun, she began to experiment with harder, more decorative color. Here, citron and blue carve strong arcs that divide the picture into assertive, almost abstract, shapes. This picture, with its bold geometry and decorative patterning of the surface, positions Mary Cassatt with such post-impressionist painters as Gauguin and Van Gogh.

This painting, one of her most ambitious, was the centerpiece of Cassatt's first solo exhibition in the United States, in 1895. Her contacts with wealthy friends in the United States did much to bring avant-garde French painting into this country.

The Caress: 1902

The Chrochet Lesson: 1913

The Family: ca 1892

This is an oil on canvas painting. The figures are arranged in a pyramid shape in the foreground, reminiscent of Renaissance Madonna and child groupings. Both the Mother and older daughter gaze at the baby. The baby looks at the older sister, or perhaps at the carnation she holds. The viewer is standing slightly above the seated figures. The background shows a path that leads into some trees, but only the bottoms of the trees are visible. The mother wears a violet dress with a wide lace collar; her two hands firmly hold the baby.

The Fitting: 1891

In 'The Fitting', Mary Cassatt offers the viewer unusual insight into women's lives in the nineteenth century. A male artist would not likely have had access to this kind of interchange between a seamstress and her client, but as a woman, Cassatt knew the private domain of women well.

'The Fitting' is part of a series of ten prints that Cassatt created in 1891; together, they form an incisive document of everyday work. In this particular print, Cassatt explores the relationship between women of different social classes. The seamstress crouches over her stitching, her back to the viewer. Neither her face nor her hands are visible; she is essentially anonymous. By contrast, the mirror offers a double view of the young woman being fitted. Both her features and the nape of her neck solicit the viewer's attention. While the fabric of the young woman's dress is elaborately sewn and matched, the seamstress wears only a simple brown stripe. Both women are solemn, immersed in serious work.

The Flirtation a Balcony in Seville: 1872

The Garden Reading: 1898

The Lamp: 1890-91

In 1890-91, inspired by an exhibition in Paris of Japanese woodcuts-then new to the West and a revelation-Cassatt made a group of ten color etchings, immediately establishing her fame as a printmaker. 'The Lamp' is one of these. This particular impression of the etching is an early state, unknown until late in 2000, and probably unique. In Yale's collection it joins Cassatt's preparatory drawing for the print. The etching, printed from two plates, in black and colors in a close tonal range of russet-brown, violet-brown, and pink, is lively and fresh; the woman looks as though she is just about to speak. The partial coloration of the print-some areas still have no color at all-is evidence that it is a work in progress.

The Letter: ca 1891

Mary Cassatt's paintings and graphics represented the world of nineteenth-century women, mothers, and children. 'The Letter' represents a mundane daily activity: a young woman seated at a desk, having completed a letter, in the act of licking an envelope. Cassatt enlivened her image with a Japanese-inspired composition that is remarkable for its brilliant color and striking design. Though the subject is common in the history of art, Cassatt elevated her depiction by infusing it with an introspective mood worthy of Vermeer. Her exploration of intimate domestic life is informed by an unsurpassed ability to capture not only the natural, sometimes awkward poses of her figures but their momentary psychological states as well. By refusing to prettify her subjects, she avoided appealing to sentimentality, instead describing their emotional experience of quotidian and intimate moments.

The Long Gloves: 1889

The Sailor Boy, Gardner Cassatt: 1892

The Sisters: ca 1885

The Two Sisters: 1893-94

The Visit: 1890-91

The Young Bride: 1875

Toreador: 1873

Woman and Child Driving: 1881

This painting shows Lydia Cassatt, the artist's sister, on a carriage drive with a young niece of the painter Edgar Degas, accompanied by a groom. Mary Cassatt purchased the horse and carriage in 1879 for her country estate near Paris, and the painting dates from a subsequent visit by her family from Philadelphia.

Woman Arranging Her Veil: ca 1890

Woman at Her Toilette: 1909

Woman in a Black Hat and a Raspberry Pink Costume: 1900

Woman in Raspberry Costume Holding a Dog: 1900

Woman Reading In a Garden: 1880

Woman With a Pearl Necklace in a Loge: 1879

Woman with Baby: ca 1902

Mary Cassatt's favorite subjects were women with children, often depicted, as here, in pastel. Never a mother herself, she managed to convey the nuances of feeling between mother and child, a theme she explored extensively from about 1888 to the end of her life. Although the implied relationship in 'Woman with Baby' is that of mother and daughter, the models were not related. The woman has been identified as Cassatt's favorite model at this time, Reine LeFebvre, a local girl whom she employed as a cook.

Young Girl Reading: ca 1908

Young Girls: 1897

Children and motherhood provided the primary themes for Cassatt's work. She successfully avoided sentimentalized views of childhood, focusing instead on her subject's freshness, intelligence and energy.

Like her mentor Edgar Degas, Cassatt worked well in pastel, a medium that utilized her drawing skills and refined sense of texture.

Young Mother Sewing: ca 1900

During the 1870's and 1880's, Cassatt often depicted women out and about in Paris, where she had settled in 1874. During the 1890's, she narrowed the range of her subjects to mothers or nurses caring for children and children alone. These themes reflected her affection for her nieces and nephews and her friends' children and her contemporaries' concern with motherhood and child rearing. Set in the conservatory of Cassatt's seventeenth-century manor house near Le Mesnil-Théribus, Oise, this painting depicts two of her favorite, unrelated models in the roles of mother and child. Louisine Havemeyer, who purchased the painting in 1901, remarked on its truth to experience: "Look at that little child that has just thrown herself against her mother's knee, regardless of the result and oblivious to the fact that she could disturb 'her mamma.' And she is quite right . . . . Mamma simply draws back a bit and continues to sew."

Young Thomas and His Mother: 1893

Young Woman in Green Outdoors in the Sun: 1914

Young Woman Picking Fruit: 1891-92

Between 1891 and 1893 Cassatt took particular interest in the theme of women picking fruit, a subject that had also been treated by Courbet, Degas, Morisot, Pissarro, Puvis de Chavannes, and Renoir. Cassatt made it the center panel of her largest work, a three-part, twelve-by-fifty-eight-foot mural titled Modern Woman (now destroyed), which was commissioned in March 1892 for the south tympanum of the Women's Building at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.

'Young Women Picking Fruit', which may be connected to the mural commission, shows two women, one reaching to pick a piece of fruit, the other sitting meditatively, holding a pear in her lap. According to the artist, the pear tree represents the tree of knowledge; and in plucking its fruit, these modern women express their desire for equality and intellectual recognition.

Young Woman Sewing in a Garden: ca 1886

Portraits of her close friends and family, often women and children shown in the privacy of their everyday lives, are common in her work. 'Girl in the Garden' also called 'Woman Sewing' is a typical example, except for its outdoor setting. The painting was exhibited during the group's last exhibition in 1886. The richly colored background is structured by a path, a broad diagonal stripe which gives the painting depth. It sets off the monumental figure of a young woman, in the near foreground. The rapid, sketchy treatment of the skirt contrasts with the clear, firm outline of the face and bust, which shows that the artist still cared about precise drawing.

Source: Art Renewal Center

Source: Mary Cassatt Online

This page is the work of Senex Magister

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