Mary Cassatt

(1844-1926)

Mary Cassatt, born in 1844, was a significant American Impressionist painter, recognized in the U.S. only at the end of her career. Most of her life was lived in France, where she exhibited with Degas, Renoir and Monet. Cassatt studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in 1861 but became bored and traveled to Paris to study privately with individual artists. Her work was accepted to the Paris Salon in 1873. Cassatt's theory on art was that it should honestly portray life through a bright palette. Her subjects were middle-class women and children, revealing a great sense of intimacy. The figures were firm and well rounded with distinct outlines. In 1891, Cassatt, inspired by Japanese prints, created a set of dry point, aquatint prints based on the cycle of a woman's life. Cassatt was a feminist and humanist who disagreed with the dissonance of the 20th century including movements like Cubism. She was no recognized in American Art Institutions until she was named chevalier in the French Legion of Honor. Cassatt should also be credited for encouraging American collectors to buy European art that now contributes largely to major museums. In 1915, Cassatt was forced to stop painting due to deteriorating vision. She died in 1926.