Abirpothi

India’s only daily art newspaper

Remembering the artist who worked with the intimate lives of contemporary women: Mary Cassatt

JUNE 14, ON THIS DAY

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Known for her perceptive depictions of women and children, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children, Mary Cassatt was one of the few American artists active in the nineteenth-century French avant-garde. She died on this day, June 14, 1926. She was a painter and a printmaker as well, who was part of the group of Impressionists working in and around Paris. As described by Gustave Geffroy she was one of \”les trois grandes dames\” (the three great ladies) of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot.

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A native of Pennsylvania, she settled permanently in Paris in 1874. She started studying painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia but decided to end her studies because of the slow pace of instruction and the patronizing attitude of the male students and teachers. Being a woman she wasn’t able to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and rather decided to study privately with masters from the school and was accepted to study with Jean-Leon Gerome and Thomas Couture.

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In 1868, one of her paintings, A Mandolin Player, was accepted for the first time by the selection jury for the Paris Salon. Along with Elizabeth Jane Gardner, whose work was also accepted by the jury that year, Cassatt was one of two American women to first exhibit in the Salon. Due to the lack of financial gain from her art, she even considered giving up art but shortly afterward, her previous works attracted the attention of Roman Catholic Bishop Michael Domenec of Pittsburgh and she was commissioned to paint two copies of paintings by Correggio. Later her painting Two Women Throwing Flowers During Carnival was well received in the Salon of 1872, and was purchased too.

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Edgar Degas saw Cassatt’s work at the Salon, and in 1877 he asked her to exhibit with the Impressionists. Cassatt’s painting style and subject matter changed greatly because of her association with Impressionism. She abandoned colourful costume genre depictions in favour of scenes from contemporary life. 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) and all of the above artworks were exhibited in the Impressionist exhibition in 1879. Cassat was highly influenced by the Japanese masters Utamaro and Toyokuni during the great exhibition of Japanese prints in Paris in 1890 and brought out her series of 10 coloured prints. Woman Bathing and The Coiffure were most appreciated work from among the 10 coloured prints.

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She was largely responsible for selecting the works that make up the H.O. Havemeyer Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. She produced more than 220 prints during the course of her career.

 

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