by Joan M. Rehlin
This month, which celebrates all mothers, is the perfect month to highlight Mary Stevenson Cassatt. Cassatt (5/22/1844–6/14/1926), who regarded herself as a figure painter, focused a large portion of her work on the intimate bonds between mothers and children.
Cassatt was born in Allegheny City (now part of Pittsburgh) before moving with her family to Philadelphia. Cassatt’s mother, educated and socially active, had an important influence on her daughter’s artistic abilities. Cassatt traveled abroad with her mother and, at age 11, attended the Paris World Fair where she viewed the work of Edgar Degas, who later became a colleague and mentor. At age 15, Cassatt enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, a prestigious institution that invited women artists to pursue their studies in its museum, paving the way for women to obtain formal art training.
Cassatt moved to Paris in 1866 where she lived most of her adult life. She continued her studies through private instruction with masters from the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1868, one of her paintings was jury-selected for exhibition in the Paris Salon. Returning briefly to the States in 1870, she placed two paintings in a New York gallery, but even though the artwork had many admirers, neither was purchased. She returned to Europe in 1871, and was invited by Degas In 1877 to show her work with a group of artists who called themselves Impressionists. Exhibiting with the Impressionists, Cassatt used her share of the profits to purchase works by Degas and Claude Monet.
Although she and the other female members of the Impressionists group were discouraged from meeting in Paris’ public cafés with the mostly male members, Cassatt enjoyed benefits provided by the wave of feminism during her lifetime, and she supported women’s suffrage. Beginning in 1887, Cassatt no longer identified herself with any art movement, experimenting instead with a variety of techniques. Cassatt was most prolific in oils and pastels.
Her painting,Mère et enfant (shown here), is one of Cassatt's many renditions of motherhood. This work was exhibited in New York at the 1913 Armory Show, aka the International Exhibition of Modern Art.
Mère et enfant (Reine Lefebre and Margot before a Window). oil, 1902, Mary Cassatt
Jim Rehlin's Art Blog
Welcome to my Art Blog where I'll be presenting topics of interest in the fine art world, as well as featuring images of artwork by artists other than myself. Some of the artwork has been created by long-departed but well-known greats; some, by compelling contemporary artists. All will be pieces I find worthwhile to share with you, and if you like any of them, consider sharing the images forward to your own blogs and other social media.