MA R Y C A S S A T T
preferred a comfortable life of leisure to the mere acquisition of wealth. He decided only two years after their arrival in Phila- delphia to take his entire family on a prolonged tour to Europe, possibly lured by the Great Exhi- bition at London’s Crystal Palace held during the summer of 1851. From there the Cassatt family continued their trip to France, where they spent almost two years in Paris. This predilection for French culture was probably due to Mrs. Cassatt’s education. She spoke French fluently, and the children were sent to local schools to master the language and absorb the French culture. When Mary’s older brother Alexander developed an interest in a technical career, the family moved again in 1853, this time to Heidelberg, Germany, and later to Darmstadt, where the boy attended the renowned Tech- nische Hochschule. It was there that their second son, Robert, died of a bone disease in May of 1855. Soon the Cassatts decided to go back to America, stopping briefly in Paris to see the Expo- sition Universelle (World’s Fair) of 1855. Although Mary was only eleven years old at that time, she might have seen the art section of this World’s Fair with its large exhibitions of works by Ingres and Delacroix, and also Cour- bet’s unofficial “ Pavillon du Réal- isme .” Whether Mary benefited from such an experience remains mere speculation, but it could well have stimu- lated her desire to become an artist. The Pennsylvania Academy During her four-year stay in Europe Mary had not only become fluent in French and German, but she had also been exposed to the diversity and rich- ness of a variety of European cultures. Returning to Pennsylvania in 1855, the Cassatt family set- tled first in West Chester outside of Philadelphia, then moved again into the city in 1858, possibly to offer their children the advantages of higher edu- cation and to allow for introductions into society.
A Musical Party 1874, oil on canvas; 38 x 26 in. (96.4 x 66 cm). Musée de la Ville de Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Paris. Done during a visit to Rome, this painting shows some of the characteristics of Gustave Courbet’s works: thickly applied paint with white highlights against a dark background. The heads of the three figures are arranged in an S-shaped curve. Cassatt’s friend, Emily Sartain, commented on this work (in a letter to her father) as being “superb and delicate in color . . . The light on the chest and face of the foreground figure, a blonde, is perfectly dazzling. It is as slovenly in manner and in drawing as her Spanish pochades [sketches], however.”
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