Ansel Adams

John James Audubon Mary Cassatt Paul Cézanne Leonardo Da Vinci Edgar Degas The Hudson River School Michelangelo Claude Monet The Pre-Raphaelites Pierre-Auguste Renoir Vincent Van Gogh Frank Lloyd Wright



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Front cover: Mother and Child (c.1900) Page 1: Mother’s Kiss (1890–91) Page 2–3: Children in a Garden (The Nurse) (1878)


The Art of Cassatt 7 Series Glossary of Key Terms 92

Index 94 List of Plates 96


PLATE 1 Photograph of Mary Cassatt (1913)



MARY CASSATT was born in May 1844 in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. She was the privileged daughter of a well-to-do Philadelphian broker. At school, Cassatt was encouraged to paint as part of the social attributes of many young girls of her class. However, Cassatt was serious about her painting and went on to study art at the Philadelphia Academy, beginning a career that resulted in her eventual participation in the development of Impressionism. Her first great interest was in the work of the great masters of Italian and Spanish art, but on her arrival in Paris, she came to admire the new young painters of the period. In 1872, Cassatt exhibited in the Salon, meeting Degas in 1874, and then exhibiting with the Impressionists in 1879. Mary Cassatt became famous for her portraits. She was especially drawn to women in everyday domestic settings, especially mothers with their children. Cassatt died in June 1926 at the age of 82 at the Château de Beaufresne in Le Mesnil-Théribus, France.


M ary Stevenson Cassatt, an American painter and printmaker, was born in Allegheny City, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in May of 1844 and died in 1926 at the Château de Beaufresne, near Beauvais in northern France, in the same year that Claude Monet himself died. The story of the years that led from a provincial American childhood to fame as a member of the most admired art movement of the later years of the nineteenth century is of considerable interest. It is worth noting that, until recently, women have rarely found a place in the history of professional art. It is important to make this distinction between professional and amateur painters because it was usual for young ladies to be able to count watercolor painting among their accomplishments, along with playing a musical instrument, singing, and, less commonly, writing. These were regarded as the proper pursuits of educated and privileged women and were not seen in the same light as

the work of professional male painters, who since the liberation of the Renaissance had been accepted into the higher levels of culture and society. It therefore required more than determination on the part of young socialite women to break into this closed profession. Those who succeeded could almost be counted on the fingers of one hand until the onset of the dramatic cultural changes that occurred following the French Revolution at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It took over 100 years for the nominal emancipation of women, but the continuing concerns with respect to women’s place in society indicate that the process is not yet complete. And this is in the so-called free democracies; parts of the rest of the world still appear to be resisting changes to historical and traditional patterns. Even in the later nineteenth century, it was still a pioneering act to wish to become a professional artist, and few succeeded in freeing themselves of the allocated 7


PLATE 2 Photograph of Mary Cassatt (1914)

This photograph was taken when Cassatt was seventy and reveals her as the grande dame she believed herself to be.

PLATE 3 (right) Offering the Panal to the Toreador (1873) Oil on canvas, 39 1 ⁄ 2 x 33 1 ⁄ 2 inches (100.3 x 85 cm)

Painted during Cassatt’s period in Spain, this is a typically Victorian painting, executed in the traditional tonal technique. It gives little evidence of her later achievements, although it is revealing of her effective Academic training and shows the influence of both Murillo and Manet.

roles of wife and mother. It is important to recognize the determination and ability necessary to achieve the level of independence and acceptance. Mary Cassatt was the second daughter of an upper middle-class family. With a stockbroker father and an extremely well-educated mother, well-read and fluent in French, Mary had the sort of early upbringing that would have made her eminently suited to the very activities and program outlined above: the privileged life of wife and mother, cosseted by servants and having time on her hands. That anticipated course of events was interrupted by her father’s decision to move to Paris in 1851, when Mary was seven.

Shortly after their arrival, dramatic events occurred that were to change not only the political and cultural scene in France but the physical face of Paris. Following the French Revolution and the First French Empire, the Bourbon Dynasty was returned in the form of Louis XVIII and, on his death, Charles X. Revolution against the inept political maneuvering of Charles followed in 1830, and he was replaced by the “citizen king,” Louis Philippe, who in turn was ousted at the age of seventy four and fled to England in what has become known as the Year of Revolutions, 1848. He was replaced by Louis Napoléon, who was regarded by many as a nonentity but who carried the magic name of Napoléon, causing him to







scenes. Although her art departed from the traditional constructed compositions such as this, she remained, like Degas, a determined Realist in her intimate paintings that concentrated on the mother-and-child theme. The influence of Manet’s painting The Balcony is evident here, but the painting technique is still traditional, and the influence of Murillo can be seen in the figure on the left.

PLATE 4 (left) On the Balcony, During the Carnival (1873) Oil on canvas, 39 3 ⁄ 4 x 32 ¼ inches (101 x 82.5 cm) Apart from the background of her traditional training in Philadelphia, the first real influence on Cassatt’s work was that of the Spanish tradition of Realism in genre

be elected as Prince President of the Second Republic. During the succeeding three years, he worked assiduously and intelligently to consolidate his position, engineered a coup d’état in December of 1851, and was renamed Napoleon III, creating the Second Empire, which was formally introduced in December of 1852. It was not an auspicious time for the Cassatt family to have arrived in Paris. Troops were positioned throughout the city and had occupied the Chamber of Deputies, the seat of government. Hundreds of citizens were killed, and as many as 30,000 were arrested or deported to Algeria, which was then a French colony. The French Revolution of 1789 was still remembered by the older citizens, a new Imperialism was unsettling and undesirable, and tension was mounting in an armed Paris. Although they had begun to settle in the city, the Cassatts moved to Germany, where they remained until 1855 before returning to America. However, they visited Paris en route to visit the Exposition Internationale, and Mary remained attracted to Paris despite the short time she spent there.

On their return to America, they settled back into the familiar routine, and Mary was expected to follow her traditional domestic role. But at the age of sixteen she rebelled and, as might be anticipated, enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts against the wishes of her father. She came from such an affluent background of solid respectability, and was indeed a young socialite, that her actions were all the more deplored by friends and acquaintances; but more importantly, she was to prove something of a problem to the Academy. She insisted on following the normal course undertaken by her male colleagues, declared that she intended to be a professional artist, and persuaded the authorities to accept her in all subjects apart from studies of the male nude. At the time, it was still assumed that the mere sight of a nude male was improper and dangerous for a female and could potentially lead to immorality. As a female student, however, she was permitted to make drawings from plaster casts, usually of Classical subjects. When one remembers that all too frequently in the “Victorian” mid century sculptures wore a fig leaf, prurience may well 11


PLATE 5 AMusical Party (1874) Oil on canvas, 38 x 26 inches (96.5 x 66 cm)

Cassatt was a cosmopolitan figure with a wide experience of European countries before she settled in Paris. During her travels, she encountered a wide range of art styles and cultures and absorbed something from each, studying and painting in the cities she visited. This painting was made while she was in Rome and already exhibits an originality of composition, which remains a feature of all her work. It is dominated by a sinuous S curve rising from the fleshy chest through the turned backward tilted head, moving the viewer back into the picture, picked up by the turned shoulders of the second figure and completed by the dark head above. Additionally, there is a deliberate circular movement outlining the two lower figures. Mary Ellison was a friend of Cassatt’s in the small American expatriate group in Paris in the period following the Franco-Prussian War, and she is believed to be the subject of this theatrical painting inspired, as were a number of such works both by Cassatt and other painters, by Renoir’s entrancing and elegant painting La Loge . Both Cassatt and Ellison were part of the theater-going, gallery-visiting members of the privileged and monied circle in the city. This is a contemplative, introspective figure painted with the new free style that Cassatt was beginning to develop under the influence of Degas. PLATE 6 (right) Mary Ellison (c. 1878) Oil on canvas, 33 1 ⁄ 2 x 25 3 ⁄ 4 inches (85 x 65.4 cm)

have been added to ignorance. The extent to which that affected Cassatt is problematic, but her works rarely include male figures, and when they do, they are portraits or otherwise show small male children. Only three male portraits exist of any but her own family members, most of these taken from the family of the brother who was closest to her. Mary left the Academy in 1865 and in the following year, departed for Europe to make a study of the Old Masters at firsthand. Although the United States has by now become the repository of many of the greatest works






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