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 Mary Stevenson Cassatt  (1844 - 1926)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania / France      Known for: mother-child portrait and genre painting, etching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt is best known for her mother and child compositions and also for her color prints, based on Japanese woodblock techniques and that combined drypoint, etching, and aquatint.  From 1890, she had her own printing press at her home.

Born in 1844 in Allegheny City (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, she was recognized by the turn of the century as one of the preeminent painters both of her native country and of France, which she made her permanent home in 1875.

She spent her childhood in Pennsylvania, and then lived with her mother in Europe from 1851 until 1858, studying in a number of cities including Paris, Parma, and Seville.  She returned to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from 1861 to 1865 and in 1866 went back to France, which she decided was best suited for her professional goals.  There she spent much time studying works by artists living and deceased, and painted with Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Edgar Degas.  Her first public success came at the Paris Salon of 1868 with a painting praised by a New York Times critic for its "vigor of treatment and fine qualities of color".  Cassatt continued to exhibit at the Salon through the mid-1870s, and attracted the attention of Edgar Degas, who invited her to join the artists dedicated to the "new painting", the Impressionists.

At this time she abandoned the somber palette and traditional subject matter of the Academic style in favor of the light-filled modern life compositions favored by her colleagues, among them Monet, Renoir, and Morisot.  She quickly adopted Impressionist techniques of applying paint rapidly from a bright palette.  Cassatt developed her own subject matter, using her family members as models because her lifestyle, with aging parents, was much more confined than that of the male Impressionists who were able to spend time in cafes and paint subjects of society life. From 1879 to 1886 she was one of only three women to exhibit with the Impressionists, and the only American woman.

In 1878, at the request of Julian Weir, she sent two of her paintings to him in America for exhibition with the Society of American Artists.  These paintings were among the first Impressionist works to be shown in America.  However, she received much more attention in France than she ever did in the United States.  While some critics were perplexed by the sketchy quality of her paint handling and the bold colors of the works, Cassatt showed at the Impressionist exhibition of 1879, by 1881 she was almost uniformly praised, with two critics citing her work as the highlight of that year's exhibition.

It was in the 1881 Impressionist exhibition that Cassatt first displayed pictures of the mother and child theme for which she is best known.  Though a sensitive painter of women and even the occasional male subject, Cassatt achieved her greatest success in the depiction of maternity.  She elevated the genre from the realm of the sentimental or anecdotal through a careful attention to naturalistic pose and gesture, to the exchange of gazes between mother and child, and with the use of animated brush strokes and bright tones.

After the final Impressionist exhibition of 1886, Cassatt began to experiment more widely, transforming her imagery with references to Old Master Madonna and Child paintings as well as Japanese prints.  Her experiments with printmaking at this time resulted in one of the great graphic monuments of the nineteenth century: the set of ten color prints first shown at Galeries Durand-Ruel in Paris in 1891.  Gradually she abandoned Impressionist work for paintings that emphasized shapes and forms.

As the years progressed, Cassatt became increasingly involved with women's rights causes.  She painted a mural for the Women's Building in the 1893 Chicago World's Exposition on the theme of "Modern Woman", and also helped organize an exhibition of pictures by Old Masters and Degas, in addition to her own works, to benefit woman suffrage in 1915.

Cassatt resided in Europe, mostly at her country chateau near Paris, the remainder of her life except during the Franco-Prussian War when her family insisted she return to Philadelphia.  She brought much of her work back with her, and unfortunately it was destroyed in a fire, so that the early European part of her career largely undocumented.  She lived into the 20th century, but it is generally thought that the quality of her work declined.  By 1914 she had to give up painting because of poor eyesight.

Upon her death in 1926, Cassatt was honored by a number of memorial exhibitions, and remains one of the most acclaimed American-born artists.  She is still the subject of major exhibitions, such as "Mary Cassatt, Modern Woman," which opened at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998.  A traveling exhibition, it included 100 of the most beautiful of her paintings, the first traveling retrospective of her work in 30 years.

Sources:
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Charlotte Rubinstein, American Women Artists


This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following was written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California:

Mary Cassatt was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania  on May 22, 1844.  During Post-Civil War America, a graceless Victorian period, Europe attracted droves of artists in search of more romantic sensibilities.  Of these exiles, none found herself more at home in France, while remaining essentially American, than Mary Cassatt.  As her palette brightened, she became the only U.S. expatriate accepted by the French impressionists, and was invited to show in four of their five independent salons.  She even won the admiration of the notorious misognyist Edgar Degas: "There is someone who sees as I do."

Mary Cassatt's father, a Pittsburgh banker, had said that he would almost rather see her dead than become an artist.  But she proved to have an equally strong will.  During the Civil War she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, then, at the age of twenty-three, traveled  extensively in Europe, finally settling in Paris in 1874.  Where the other impressionists made a cult of painting out-of-doors, Mary Cassatt rarely left the drawing room.  From the new fads for photography and Japanese prints, she introduced cropped images and flattened perspectives into her interiors.  She spent the rest of her long life abroad, in unremitting labor at the easel and made herself the best female painter America has produced.  Her favorite theme was that of mother and child.  Without sentimentalizing the mother-child relationship, she pictured it clearly, and each time new, in its unnumerable facets.

In 1893 she was commissioned to paint part of the decorations at the World's Fair in Chicago; it was one of the first awards of such importance to a woman.  Her oils and pastels regularly fetched six and occasionally, seven figure prices.  When a portrait of the artist's mother was offered at Christie's in May, 1983, it sold for $1.1 million, establishing a salesroom record for an American Impressionist.  Experts long debated Cassatt's status as an American Impressionist on the grounds that she was an expatriate who did most of her work in France.

Edgar Degas, the women-hating perfectionist, was Cassatt's closest male friend.  He admired her talents, and proceeded to teach her a good deal of his own almost cruelly precise draftsmanship, which has never been surpassed for subtlety.  From the Impressionists who became her friends she got the habit of subordinating form, space and texture to the pure play of light, and of giving her pictures a modest, if contrived, sketchiness. Cassatt's most telling device was her own: she painted plain and sometimes charmless people in classically noble poses, and with the same care that earlier artists lavished on saints and goddesses.

Cassatt was an assertive woman with a penchant for high fashion and high teas.  She wasn't pretty, with a ruddy complexion, snub nose, brown hair and big hands.  She was a connoisseur of fashion magazines.  At 5 feet, 6 inches, she appeared statuesque, even elegant  in high-collared dresses, scarves, feathered hats and parasols.  She traveled extensively, braving disease, bed bugs and cold.

Cassatt herself was truly modern for her time.  An automobile enthusiast, she bought a Renault in 1906.  She was a vegetarian for a while.  She attended seances and, while not a particularly religous woman in the conventional sense, she was interested in Spiritualism.  The movement was a perfect fit:  It preached equality of the sexes and placed high value on children.  Cassatt never married, but she lived a full family life until her death in 1926.  Her parents, sisters, nephews and nieces were always visiting her villa on the Riviera, her Paris flat or chateau near Beauvais.  Even in her old age, she had a prim, acerbic wit, she found Monet too unintelligent, criticized Renoir's lusty art as too "animal", scorned the generation of the cubists as "cafe loafers."

She could also be generous.  As she never lacked for money (her brother became president of the Pennsylvania Railroad), she quietly lent much of it to Paris Dealer Durand-Ruel to help back the Impressionists and sold Pissaro (of whom she said "he could have taught stones to draw correctly") at her tea parties.  She was largely responsible for the Havemeyer collection, which stocked New York's Metropolitan Museum with many of its great El Greco's, Manets, Courbets and Corots.

"Woman's vocation in life," she once said,"is to bear children."  She produced hundreds of children, but they were all on canvas.  Around 1910 she began to go blind and had to curtail her work.  She died on June 14, 1926 at Chateau de Beaufresne, near Paris.

Sources:
Time Magazine, February 4, 1966 and October 12, 1953 
ARTnews
From the Internet, Webmuseum in Paris
Debra Hale Shelton in the Buffalo, New York News, Wednesday, October 14, 1998.


Biography from Acquisitions Of Fine Art:
Mary Stevenson Cassatt (May 22, 1844 - June 14, 1926) 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 (pronounced ca-SAHT) 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 favorable 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. She had her first lessons in drawing and music while abroad and learned German and French. 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 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, and continued her studies during the years of the American Civil War. Part of their concern may have been Cassatt's exposure to feminist ideas and the bohemian behavior of some of the male students, of which one was Thomas Eakins, later the controversial director of the Academy. About 20% of the students were female. Though most were not bent on making a career of art, they viewed art as a valid means of achievement and recognition, and a socially valuable talent. Cassatt, instead, was determined to become a professional artist.

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 (until somewhat later) and the principal training was primarily drawing from casts.

Cassatt decided to end her studies (at that time, no degree was granted). She finally overcame her father's objections and in 1866, she moved to Paris, 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. Clearly skilled, she 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 Gardner met and married famed academic painter William 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, before striking out with the Impressionists.

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 & torn up my father's portrait, & 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 & 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 farely itch & 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.

Impressionism
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".

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 (1873, in the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution). 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, "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.

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 (also known as the "Independents" or "Intransigents") 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 Cassatts, 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, "we are carrying on a despairing fight & 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 to record the scenes she saw, out-of-doors and at the theater.

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.

Cassatt's father insisted that her studio and supplies be covered by her sales, which were still meager. Afraid of having to paint "potboilers" (sentimental themes for quick money) 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).

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 copper engraving, of which he was a recognized master, which strengthened her control of line and overall draftsmanship. She became the subject in his series of etchings recording their trips to the Louvre. They worked side-by-side for awhile, and she gained considerably from his technique and knowledge. 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, actually making a profit for each member and saving the group from the "profound desolation" which had reigned "in the Impressionist camp". The success came 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. A writer for 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.

Later life
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 drypoint Gardner Held by His Mother (an impression inscribed "Jan/88" is in the New York Public Library), 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.

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. (See Japonism) Cassatt was attracted to the simplicity and clarity of Japanese design, and the skillful use of blocks of color. In her intrepretation, 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 1890s 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. Although instrumental in advising the 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 1900s; 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.

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.

In recognition of her contributions to the arts, France awarded her the Legion d'honneur in 1904.

She died on June 14, 1926 at Chateau de Beaufresne, near Paris, and was buried in the family vault at Mesnil-Theribus, France.

 (From wikipedia)

Biography from RoGallery.com:
The Impressionist painter, Mary Cassatt is best known for her mother and child compositions.  Born in 1844 in Allegheny City, now part of Pittsburgh, she was recognized by the turn of the century as one of the preeminent painters both of her native country and of France, which she made her permanent home in 1875.

She spent her childhood in Pennsylvania, and then lived with her mother in Europe from 1851 until 1858, studying in a number of cities including Paris, Parma, and Seville.  She returned to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from 1861 to 1865 and in 1866 went back to France, which she decided was best suited for her professional goals. There she spent much time studying works by artists living and deceased, and painted with Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Edgar Degas.  Her first public success came at the Salon of 1868 with a painting praised by a New York Times critic for its "vigor of treatment and fine qualities of color".  Cassatt continued to exhibit at the Salon through the mid-1870s, and attracted the attention of Edgar Degas, who invited her to join the artists dedicated to the "new painting", the Impressionists.

At this time she abandoned the somber palette and traditional subject matter of the Academic style in favor of the light-filled modern life compositions favored by her colleagues, among them Monet, Renoir, and Berthe Morisot.  She quickly adopted impressionist techniques of applying paint rapidly from a bright palette.  Cassatt developed her own subject matter, using her family members as models because her lifestyle, with aging parents, was much more confined than that of the male Impressionists who were able to spend time in cafes and paint subjects of society life. From 1879 to 1886 she was one of only three women to exhibit with the Impressionists, and the only American woman.

In 1878, at the request of Julian Weir, she sent two of her paintings to him in America for exhibition with the Society of American Artists. These paintings were among the first Impressionist works to be shown in America.  However, she received much more attention in France than she ever did in the United States. While some critics were perplexed by the sketchy quality of her paint handling and the bold colors of the works Cassatt showed at the Impressionist exhibition of 1879, by 1881 she was almost uniformly praised, with two critics citing her work as the highlight of that year's exhibition.

It was in the 1881 Impressionist exhibition that Cassatt first displayed pictures of the mother and child theme for which she is best known.  Though a sensitive painter of women and even the occasional male subject, Cassatt achieved her greatest success in the depiction of maternity.  She elevated the genre from the realm of the sentimental or anecdotal through a careful attention to naturalistic pose and gesture, to the exchange of gazes between mother and child, and with the use of animated brush strokes and bright tones.

After the final Impressionist exhibition of 1886, Cassatt began to experiment more widely, transforming her imagery with references to Old Master Madonna and Child paintings as well as Japanese prints.

Her experiments with printmaking at this time resulted in one of the great graphic monuments of the nineteenth century: the set of ten color prints first shown at Galeries Durand-Ruel in Paris in 1891.

Gradually she abandoned Impressionist work for paintings that emphasized shapes and forms. She did a series of color prints that combined drypoint, etching, and aquatint by studying Japanese woodblock techniques. From 1890, she had her own printing press at her home.

As the years progressed, Cassatt became increasingly involved with women's rights causes.  She painted a mural for the Womens Building in the 1893 Chicago World's Exposition on the theme of "Modern Woman", and also helped organize an exhibition of pictures by Old Masters and Degas, in addition to her own works, to benefit woman suffrage in 1915.

Cassatt resided in Europe, mostly at her country chateau near Paris, the remainder of her life except during the Franco-Prussian War when her family insisted she return to Philadelphia.  She brought much of her work back with her, and unfortunately it was destroyed in a fire, so that the early European part of her career largely undocumented.  She lived into the 20th century, but it is generally thought that the quality of her work declined. By 1914 she had to give up painting because of poor eyesight.

Upon her death in 1926, Cassatt was honored by a number of memorial exhibitions, and remains one of the most acclaimed American-born artists. She is still the subject of major exhibitions, such as "Mary Cassatt, Modern Woman," which opened at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998. A traveling exhibition, it included 100 of the most beautiful of her paintings, the first traveling retrospective of her work in
30 years.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


Mary Stevenson is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
New York Armory Show of 1913
Impressionists Pre 1940
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Paris Pre 1900
Women Artists



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