Mary Cassatt
Artist of the Tender Moment

Portrait of Mary Cassatt in Grasse, 1914. Image is courtesy of the Frederick A. Sweet research material on Mary Cassatt and James A. McNeill Whistler, 1872-1975, in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Mary Cassatt was not the typical woman of her time. She came from a wealthy family in Pennsylvania. She was well-educated and studied art in Philadelphia. But after a few years she took a radical turn. She left to study art at the major museums in Europe. As her style matured, she made her way to Paris.1

In Paris, Mary embraced a new style of painting called Impressionism. It uses strong bright colors. Light seems to be striking the surface and reflecting off it. It's as if the sun is hitting a shiny object and bouncing off it. The image on the canvas is more like a blur than a photo.2

Mary embraced the Impressionists' technique. Like them, she painted scenes of everyday life.3 She focused on the closeness of mothers and children. One famous painting is of a mother bathing her child. Mary set these paintings in the home. Her family members often posed as her models.4 Mary never married or had children of her own. Yet her works capture the tender moments shared by mother and child.5


Click on image to enlarge
This painting is currently on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Mary was one of the few women artists to succeed professionally. At the time, art was largely the domain of men only. But Edgar Degas, a leader in the Impressionist movement, saw Mary's work. He said: "Voila! There is someone who feels as I do." She was the only woman invited to exhibit her work with the other Impressionists.

Though she lived in Europe, Mary returned to the United States often. She exhibited her work in the U.S. and advised American art collectors. When a writer began to write her biography, she told him: "I am an American, simply and frankly an American."6

 

1 http://cgfa.sunsite.dk/cassatt_bio.htm
2 Scott, Foresman, Advanced Dictionary.
3 Weinberg, H. Barbara, Bolger, Doreen, Curry, David Park. American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1994, p.384.
4 http://cgfa.sunsite.dk/cassatt_bio.htm
5 Weinberg, H. Barbara, Bolger, Doreen, Curry, David Park. American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1994, p. 295.
6 Weinberg, H. Barbara, Bolger, Doreen, Curry, David Park. American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1994, p. 348-49.


Mary Cassatt Doll Set

Mary Cassatt Biography