Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt, Selbstportrait, um 1880
Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Washington / Smithsonian Institution
1844 – 1926 / US-american impressionist painter
“Les trois grandes dames [The three great ladies]”
Gustave Geffroy, 1894

 this is how Mary Cassatt and impressionist painters Berthe Morisot and Marie Braquemont were called in the Parisian art world at the end of the 19th century. With an unparalleled eagerness for experimenting, she paints and applies printing techniques, promoting impressionism through her connections in the USA.

Between Europe and the USA

Cassat was born in 1844 in the USA, in what is now Pennsylvania, as the daughter of a banker family with French roots. Growing up between Europe and the USA and inspired by the European art scene she decided to move to France after studying painting at the Pennsylvania Fine Arts Academy. From then on, she worked in Paris, temporarily in Parma (Italy) and again in the USA, until her family followed her to Paris in 1877. Although her work had received some recognition, she finds it difficult to sell her works in the beginning.

No desire for the ordinary
“I hated conventional art. I began to live.”
Mary Cassatt

ary Cassatt joined the Paris Salon and exhibited with the group in 1872, 1873, and 1874. However, she rejected the conventional art market. This and her acquaintance with Edgar Degas led Cassatt to join the Impressionists in 1877 and to continue to exhibit with them.

Cassatt is now even more keen to experiment. Stylistically, she dares to try out new, radical painting and printing techniques. From the 1880s onwards, she developed a new, unique style inspired by Japanese prints.

Painter of the Mothers

Even thematically, Cassatt’s works go their own way. As a woman of the high society, she is – unlike her male painter colleagues – not allowed to be in public places without a chaperone. She primarily portrays her family members in everyday situations and has a preference to portray mothers with their child.

There’s only one thing in life for a woman; it’s to be a mother. A woman artist must be capable of making primary sacrifices.
Mary Cassatt
Family-oriented globetrotter

The artist herself has no children, but besides her artistic activities she also takes care of her parents and a sick sister for a long time. After her death, she travels unbound through Europe again, drawing her artistic inspiration from her experiences and the styles of other artists. She worked until shortly after 1900, when she became almost completely blind and died in 1926 in France.