Mary Stevenson Cassatt was an American painter and print maker. She lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists.
Mary Cassatt decided to become an artist at age sixteen, when most women of her era and social status were looking forward only to marriage. Defying convention, she headed to Europe in 1866 and settled in Paris, where she remained for most of her life. As a woman, Cassatt was not permitted to enroll in the École des Beaux-Arts, the leading art academy in France. She found private instruction and educated herself by copying paintings in the Louvre Museum. Years later, she recalled that her life had changed when she met the artist Edgar Degas, who invited her to join the Impressionist circle.
Partly because women were not welcome in the Paris cafés where the Impressionists often discovered their subject matter, she specialized in domestic paintings, particularly of mothers and children. Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children.
In the late 1880s, when Cassatt was well established in her career, she fell under the influence of Japanese prints and dramatically altered her own style of painting. Abandoning the feathery brushwork, pastel colors, and insubstantial forms of Impressionism, Cassatt began to create bold, unconventional patterns of flat color and solid forms. 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.”
The Boating Party, painted on the south coast of France, exemplifies this change.
To learn more about Mary Cassatt and her works go to the April 5, 2011 PowerPoint Mary Cassatt the boating party
Continue reading Up From Slavery, by Booker T. Washington. Have a great week.-Mrs. S
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