Mary Cassatt – American 1844-1926

Mary Cassatt Self Portrait
Self Portrait, 1880
Mary Cassatt was born in 1844 in Pennsylvania, USA as the daughter of a wealthy merchant. At the age of seven her family left for Paris in France. After a few years of life in Paris, the family went back to the USA. Impressed by all the art she had seen in Europe, she surprised her parents by the wish to become an artist. Becoming an artist in the 19th century was as difficult for a woman as becoming a doctor. Society then had a different understanding of the role of women.

Finally Mary won and her parents allowed her to visit the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1866 she went back to Paris. She copied the old masters in the Louvre and other museums. The young woman artist had acquired pretty good skills in traditional art style and in 1874 a Mary Cassatt painting was even accepted by the judges of the Salon. In 1877 she made the acquaintance of Degas, with whom she was to be on close terms throughout his life. His art and ideas had a considerable influence on her own work; he introduced her to the Impressionists and she participated in the exhibitions of 1879, 1880, 1881 and 1886, refusing to do so in 1882 when Degas did not. Degas was refused by the Salon and along with a group of Impressionists who were refused by the Salon they established their own show, the Salon des Refuses. Edgar Degas introduced her to his friends Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and other Impressionist rebels.

Some art historians think Mary Cassatt was also Dega's mistress. This is however rather questionable as Degas was considered a convinced misogynist. Under the influence of Edgar Degas and the other Impressionists the artist Mary Cassatt changed her painting style. She used light colors and began to paint people. Mary Cassatt's favorite subjects became children and women with children in ordinary scenes. Her paintings express a deep tenderness and her own love for children. But she never had children of her own.

Mary CassattThe artist's artistic breakthrough came in 1892, when she received a commission for a mural for the Woman's Building at the Chicago World's Fair. The mural painting got lost after the fair and has not shown up until today.

Mary Cassatt influenced Impressionism not only as an artist. She also had an important role in sponsoring and in financial promotion of Impressionist art. She often bought paintings of her friends when they were short of cash. And with her connections to rich American families, she encouraged many of her countrymen to buy Impressionist art. Quite a few of the great Impressionist art collections in the USA were established as a result of her activities. The collection of 19th century French paintings of the Havemeyers was largely mediated by her. The collection is now in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The artist Mary Cassatt would have made a poor career as a diplomat. She never held back with her opinion. Fortunately her wealth made her independent from what others thought about her. Especially when she grew older, her frankness could sometimes become insulting. She did not like the modern artists like Henri Matisse or Pablo Picasso and spoke of "dreadful paintings". Even her Impressionist colleagues were whacked. For Claude Monet's late works – his famous water-lily paintings – she found the words "glorified wallpaper".

When she died in 1926 at the age of 82 she was blind.

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Mary Cassatt: Famous Female Impressionist by Rachael Morlock – Grade Level: 7 - 12, Paperback: 104 pages; Lucent Press (Jan 15, 2019) Best Seller

Full-color photographs trace the evolution of Cassatt's work as it elevated everyday women's lives to the realm of fine art. Readers explore the artistic and historic contexts for Cassatt's work through detailed text and sidebars, while annotated excerpts from personal letters and other primary sources illuminate Cassatt's life and legacy.

Cassatt: Mothers and Children by Sue Roe, Judith A. Barter, Mallory Farrugia – Hardcover: 120 pages; Chronicle Books (Oct 1, 2019) Best Seller

Mary Cassatt's tender and profound paintings redefined portraiture and broke down barriers for women in art—both as artists and as subjects. This collection focuses on Cassatt's insightful portrayal of women and children living their everyday lives. Fifty magnificent images cover the scope of Cassatt's work, from her early interest in Japanese woodblocks all the way to her exploration of Modernist techniques. Two essays contextualize her as a pioneering female artist and as the American face of Impressionist painting.

Mary Cassatt by Applewood Books – Hardcover: 32 pages; Benna Books (Oct 11, 2016)

The Short Biographies series from Applewood’s Benna Books imprint features short, intriguing, and entertaining biographies of world-renowned figures. Each beautiful hardcover book includes an interesting retelling of a single person's life, suitable for young adults and adults alike. These little gems will become beloved souvenirs of a favorite artist or a memorable trip to a museum.

Degas / Cassatt by Kimberly A. Jones, Elliot Bostwick Davis, Erica E. Hirshler, Ann Hoenigswald, Susan Pinsky – Hardcover: 192 pages; Prestel (May 8, 2014)

This surprising study examines the extent to which Mary Cassatt influenced the work of her contemporary Edgar Degas. Edgar Degas's influence upon Mary Cassatt has long been acknowledged, but her role in shaping his artistic production and in preparing the way for his warm reception in America is fully examined for the first time.

Women Impressionists: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalès, Marie Bracquemond by Ingrid Pfeiffer, Linda Nochlin, Sylvie Patry, Griselda Pollock, Anna Havemann, Pamela Ivinski, Max Hollein – Hardcover: 360 pages; Hatje Cantz (Apr 1, 2008)

This stunning 400-page compendium, published to accompany the important traveling exhibition which goes to San Francisco in the summer of 2008, corrects this longstanding oversight, presenting these pioneering painters alongside each other for the first time, reproducing their oil paintings, pastels, watercolors, drawings and etchings and offering a cogent rebuttal of familiar Impressionist narratives.

Mary Cassatt: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Oils, Pastels, Watercolors, and Drawings by Adelyn Dohme Breeskin Unknown Binding: 322 pages; Smithsonian Institution Press (1970)


Mary Cassatt: Oils and Pastels by John E. Bullard – Hardcover: 87 pages; Watson-Guptill (Oct 1, 1972)

Mary Cassatt (Chaucer Library of Art S.) by Griselda Pollock – Hardcover: 128 pages; Chaucer Press (Jun 30, 2005)

Born into the male dominated world of the nineteenth century, middle-class Pennsylvania society, Mary Cassatt became a feminist and turned what was a lady's accomplishment into a profession becoming a radical painter, working in Paris and exhibiting with the Impressionists. Degas, Manet, Gauguin and Pissaro, amongst others, knew and admired her work, and yet, since her death in 1926, Cassatt has received little critical acclaim, and her importance, both personally as an individual artist and historically within the evolution of the Impressionist movement, has largely been obscured.

The Graphic Art Of Mary Cassatt by Adelyn D. Breeskin – Hardcover: The Museum of Graphic Art (1967)

Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman – Paperback: 176 pages; Plume; Reprint edition (Oct 29, 2002)

As you read Chessman's second novel (after Ohio Angels), be prepared for an insightful and moving tale about a great American painter and her family. Here is the poignant story of Lydia, Mary Cassatt's sister, who details the important role she played in the creation of Cassatt's early Impressionist paintings.

Each chapter centers on a painting by Mary that involves Lydia, and the narrative offers wonderful insight into Cassatt's bold life and her relationships with artists such as Renoir, Caillebotte, and especially Degas. Though Lydia is fighting a horrible battle against Bright's disease, she continues to pose for her sister and to live her life with courage and dignity.Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Mary Cassatt (Treasures of Art) by Trewin Copplestone – Hardcover: 80 pages; Grammercy (Sep 1998)

The world's most famous artists are highlighted in these concise and vibrantly colorful volumes. Each book in the series contains 80 pages of full-color reproductions along with authoritative text about the featured artist. A perfect souvenir for museum visits and a special gift for all art lovers.

Mary Cassatt: A Life by Nancy Mowell Mathews – Paperback: 383 pages; Yale University Press; Reprint edition (Oct 1998)

Cassatt is known as the painter of mothers and children and as one of the few women Impressionists. Mathews, a renowned Cassatt expert, illuminates facets of the painter's life that have never before been articulated.

Mary Cassatt: Reflections of Women's Lives by Debra N. Mancoff – Hardcover: 96 pages; Stewart Tabori & Chang (Sep 1998)

Via paintings, prints, and pastels created by Mary Cassatt throughout her career, this book explores the main facets of feminine life—solitary, social, public, and intimate—and offers an intriguing look into the world of women in the late 19th century. 50 color photos. 10 archival prints.

Cassatt: A Retrospective by Mary Cassatt, Nancy Mowell Mathews (Editor) – Hardcover: 357 pages; Hugh Lauter Levin Associates; 1st edition (Oct 1, 1996)

In an era when few American women pursued careers outside of marriage and motherhood, Mary Cassatt's ambition and professional independence were noteworthy. Her paintings of mothers and children are known the world over for their honest sensitivity. 120 full-color plates. 110 b&w illustrations.

Mary Cassatt: The Color Prints by Nancy Mowell Mathews, Barbara Stern Sharpiro – Hardcover, 207 pages; Harry N. Abrams, 1989

Leading Cassatt expert Mathews ( Mary Cassatt, LJ 6/15/87) continues her exemplary scholarship in conjunction with Shapiro, a specialist in prints and also a writer on Cassatt. Cassatt was trained as a painter, but here the authors explore her work as a printmaker possessing a virtuosity unmatched by that of her Impressionist contemporaries, who were influenced by her print oeuvre . In the prints Mathews finds confirmation of the thesis that Cassatt passed from Impressionism to "a quieter, more classic art." Boasting the completeness of a catalogue raisonne, this sumptuous work surely will remain the leading resource for decades to come. Highly recommended. —Mary Hamel-Schwulst, Towson State Univ., Md. Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Mary Cassatt: An American in Paris (A First Book) by Philip Brooks – School & Library Binding, 63 pages; Franklin Watts, 1995

Mary Cassatt Oils and Pastels by E. John Bullard – Reissue Edition, Paperback: Watson-Guptill, 1984

Mary Cassatt: Graphic Art by Adelyn Dohme Breeskin – Unknown Binding: 27 pages; Smithsonian Institution Press (1981)

Published for Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service

Mary Cassatt by Mike Venezia – Paperback: 40 pages; Children's Press; Revised edition (Feb 1, 2015)

Clever illustrations and story lines, together with full-color reproductions of actual paintings, give children a light yet realistic overview of Mary Cassat's life and style.

Mary Cassatt: An American Impressionist in Paris by Flavie Durand-Ruel Mouraux, Nancy Mowll Mathews, Pierre Curie – Hardcover: 176 pages; Mercatorfonds (Jul 10, 2018)

This beautiful book, edited by a preeminent Cassatt scholar, brings together more than sixty important works that span the entirety of Cassatt’s career. Included here are works across all media in which Cassatt worked—oils, pastels, drawings, and prints—as well as numerous documentary sources that combine to convey a full and nuanced account of Cassatt as an American artist in Paris.

Mary Cassatt: Impressionist Painter by Lois Harris – Grade Level: Preschool – Hardcover: 32 pages; Pelican Publishing (Aug 14, 2007) Best Seller

Mary Cassatt was anything but conventional. This book chronologically portrays her lifelong artistic journey from her days as a child living abroad to her earned success as the only female American member of the French Impressionists.

Mary Cassatt: Retrospective Exhibition by R. S. Johnson – Paperback: R.S. Johnson Fine Art (1997)

Art in a Mirror: The Counterproofs of Mary Cassatt by Warren Adleson – Paperback: 96 pages; Adelson Gallery (Jan 25, 2007)

The counterproofs in this book, which are literally mirror images of her pastels, were produced by taking an impression of that original on a second sheet of paper.

Children of the Gilded Era: Portraits of Sargent, Renoir, Cassatt and Their Contemporaries by Barbara Dayer Gallati – Hardcover: 96 pages; Merrell Holberton (Oct 1, 2004)

Reader review: As many know, American painter John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) was not only a gifted landscape artist but was also recognized as the outstanding society portraitist of his day. One often thinks of him in connection with his painting of Madame X and the scandal that ensued. However, we are reminded of a much different Sargent when we view his portraits of children, so innocent, so appealing.

Mary Cassatt: A Brush With Independence Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
Jul 29, 2003
57 minutes

Unmarried and childless, Mary Cassatt nevertheless became America's first impressionist painter with her everyday depictions of mothers and children. This 55-minute documentary takes viewers to Paris and its countryside where the expatriate mixed with the likes of Edgar Degas, became the only American invited to join the French impressionists, and contributed to the burgeoning women's suffrage movement. Drawing upon excerpts of letters and diaries from her family, fellow painters, and friends--as well as her own words--this authoritative film explores her influences, as varied as her spirited mother to the masters hanging in the Louvre. Narrator Anne Archer also details Cassatt's significant role in the changing of the art world and challenges like the depressions after the deaths of family members, which kept her from painting for years at a time. Throughout, viewers are treated to footage of her paintings, and those of her friends and influences.Kimberly Heinrichs

Great Women Artists: Mary Cassatt (2001) Color, NTSC
Mar 28, 2006
45 minutes

Children and naturalism are the hallmarks of Mary Cassatt's work during the 1880s and 1890s. Cassatt absorbed from her Impressionist colleagues Caillebotte, Degas, and Renoir, as well as her study of Japanese prints, the modern idea that the background of a painting might be as significant as the foreground. Her paintings depict a world of her own creation, one that adults can fully understand only by recapturing their childhood persona. The program provides an in-depth look into her life, and includes numerous examples of her works while examining her style which made her unique in the world of art. This original program also features spectacular imagery and many rare historical photographs.

Mary Cassatt: An American Impressionist by Gerhard Gruitrooy – Hardcover: 80 pages; Todtri Productions, Ltd; New edition (Sep 1998)

Mary Cassatt: Prints and Drawings from the Artist's Studio by Warren Adelson, Jay E. Cantor, Susan Pinsky, Marc Rosen, Shapiro – Paperback: 148 pages; Princeton University Press (Nov 6, 2000)

One of the greatest—and most popular—of the Impressionists, Mary Cassatt created some of her most inventive and appealing images in the print medium. Documenting a startling new discovery, this exquisitely produced book unveils 204 major prints and drawings that have been sequestered in a private collection for nearly half a century.

Mary Cassatt: Painter of Modern Women (The World of Art) by Griselda Pollock – Paperback (Sep 1998) Thames & Hudson

A groundbreaking new study that redefines Mary Cassatt's status in the Parisian avant-garde and in American art, placing her work in the wider context of 19th-century feminism and art theory. 184 illustrations, 55 in color.

Mary Cassatt (Library of American Art) by Nancy Mowell Mathews – Hardcover: 160 pages; Harry N. Abrams (Apr 1987)

The shortness of the volume (and the plentitude of excellent black-and-white illustrations and color plates) tends to restrict this monograph to survey length. Yet the book includes a clear definition of the artist's personality, a revised chronology, and a balanced analysis of Cassatt's development, showing for example that she was a true Impressionist for only nine years.

Mary Cassatt, Modern Woman by Judith A. Barter, Erica E. Hirshler, Art Institute of Chicago Staff – Hardcover: 320 pages; Harry N. Abrams (Oct 1998)

Mary Cassatt; Impressionist at Home by Barbara Stern Shapiro – Hardcover: 80 pages; Universe Publishing (Sep 1998)

This unique selection—published to coincide with a major national exhibition—salutes Cassatt's extraordinary gift for depicting the sanctity of the home and her remarkable sensitivity to life's moments of repose. 40 color illustrations.

Cassatt: Impressionist From Philadelphia Color, NTSC
Jun 20, 2000
30 minutes

The first program to celebrate Cassatt's remarkable career tells her personal story— the years in Paris, her relationship with Degas, the influence of her socially prominent Philadelphia family—with on-location footage and stills. The best examples of her work have been collected here, revealing the quality, variety, and originality of this great 19th-century American painter.

Mary Cassatt: Paintings and Prints by Frank Getlein – Paperback: 3 pages; Abbeville Press (Nov 1980)

Mary Cassatt and Philadelphia by Suzanne G. Lindsay – Paperback (Feb 1985) Philadelphia Museum of Art

Lindsay's essay responds to a need greater than that for an exhibition catalog: it presents the artist in a new role as liaison between the art centers of Paris and Philadelphia— Mary Cassatt and Philadelphia—their significance to future generations of American art-lovers is clearly defined within the contents of this publication. The books social overtones are informative and its thesis is one that has all too often been overlooked.

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