Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Women's History Month and Artist of the Week

"Well-behaved women seldom make history."
~ Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

This week,honoring American Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt
Self Portrait
gouche on paper 23x17in
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926) was an American painter and printmaker. She lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children. see entire wiki entry here

From Mary Cassatt: The Complete Works:

Even though her family objected to her becoming a professional artist, Cassatt began studying painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the early age of fifteen, and continued her studies during the years of the American Civil War. Part of their concern may have been Cassatt's exposure to feminist ideas and the bohemian behavior of some of the male students, of which one was Thomas Eakins, later the controversial director of the Academy. About 20% of the students were female. Though most were not bent on making a career of art, they viewed art as a valid means of achievement and recognition, and a socially valuable talent. Cassatt, instead, was determined to become a professional artist.

Cassatt admired Degas, whose pastels had made a powerful impression on her when she encountered them in an art dealer's window in 1875. "I used to go and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art," she later recalled. "It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it." 

 In 1891, she exhibited a series of highly original colored drypoint and aquatint prints, including Woman Bathing and The Coiffure, inspired by the Japanese masters shown in Paris the year before. (See Japonism) Cassatt was attracted to the simplicity and clarity of Japanese design, and the skillful use of blocks of color. In her intrepretation, she used primarily light, delicate pastel colors and avoided black (a "forbidden" color
Painted in Seville, Spain, this picture depicts a young woman serving a refreshing panale (honeycomb or sponge sugar dipped in water) to a bullfighter. Cassatt had traveled to Spain to study the work of Old Masters. With its bold handling of paint and rich colors, Offering the Panale demonstrates the influence of such seventeenth-century painters as Diego Velázquez.
Note: Though I detest bullfighting (despite my Iberian roots), I love this painting. The flirtateous stances of the bullfighter and the young woman and the way Cassatt was able to capture the essence of the bullfighter's doubtless superiority! The painting is also a very familiar one, as I've seen it dozens of times at the Clarke Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The bold color is amazing.

The above work by Mary Cassatt is also at the Clarke

More works by Mary Cassatt

The Boat Ride


  1. Thanks for this. I didn't know it's Women's History Month!

  2. oh, i loved this...thank you for all you offer us here...she is one of my favorites.

  3. A very nice exhibit of an artist whose work I'm not very familiar with. Nicely done.

  4. i love her works, thank you for posting them and her story! it´s visible Degas influence at her work.

  5. Wonderful Artist, I love the beach one.

  6. I love her work
    it's so genuine and the colors flow
    and the faces are so interesting

    love the quote about well behaved women ;)

    neither one of us has to worry about that

  7. All of these are beautiful, but The Boat Ride blows my mind - the detail of the oarsman's hand juxtaposed against the child's contortions is exquisite.

    I'm sure I could wax similarly about most of these, but I won't.

    Again, you amaze me. Thank you.

  8. My home girl from Philly!

    Aloha from Hawaii my Friend

    Comfort Spiral

  9. Thank you, everyone for your kind comments.

    I admire Cassatt for her independence at a time when women painted as a hobby, not as a vocation. She made it onto the list of impressionists - both French and American. That is a big accomplishment.

    imac: the two girls on the beach is one of my favorites - reminds me of my two girls when they were little, who are so close in age like the subjects of that painting.

    Di: you know it, Sister! And you don't even know the half of it! ;-D hahahaha

  10. Cassatt was wonderful.

    Of course, I'm hoping for pics from one or both of my two favorite women artists, Doris Salcedo and Rachel Whiteread.

    I know, I know. I'm being greedy. :)


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