Art History

Happy Birthday Mary Cassatt

 Mary Cassatt was an American painter born in Pennsylvania (near the Pittsburgh area) born May 22, 1844.  She was born to an upper middle class family who believed that travel was an essential part of learning about the world.  Mary was fortunate to be able to travel to Europe as part of her education. 

At the age of 15 she began to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  Female artists were not as common during that time period and she became disillusioned by the school.   During the time that Mary studied at the school, females were not allowed to work from live models as the male students did.  She decided to end her studies at the school and move to Paris to study the old masters on her one. ​
Mary Cassatt spent much of her adult life in France.  In 1877 she was invited to exhibit with the Impressionists by Edgar Degas after failed attempts at the Salon.  She became associated with the Impressionist movement and was mentored by artists such as Edgar Degas, Bethe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, and Claude Monet.  

Mary Cassatt’s paintings depicted the lives of women, both social and private, and she is well known for her paintings of mothers with their children.​   Her works were created in oil paint and later she learned the art of pastel from Degas.  

Although she lived much of her life in France, she remained connected to America.  In 1886 she provided two paintings for the first Impressionist exhibit in the United States.  She later became the adviser to several major art collectors.  Often she would stipulate that the collector must eventually donate their collection to American art museums. 

In 1914, Mary stopped painting due to near blindness and other health concerns.  She continued to promote the arts and, as a feminist from an early age, she was an avid supporter of the women’s suffrage movement.  In 1915 she showed 18 works in an exhibit supporting the movement.  Mary Cassatt died in 1926 at the age of 82.

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