Mary Stevenson Cassatt was a famous American woman who impressed many with her skills in art and printmaking. She was born in Pennsylvania in the year 1844 by her father Robert Simpson Cassatt (investor) and her mother Katherine Johnston who was very knowledgeable in banking and French language (Meyer 21).When she turned seven her family relocated to Europe. The Cassatt’s were raised in various countries including Germany, Paris in France and in the Unites States. While in Europe Mary was exposed to various environments as she visited several art exhibitions, museums and it is here that she learnt her first skills in music and drawing (Hale 32). In 1855 she met French great artists of the time the likes of Corot, Pissarro, Ingres and Degas who later became her mentors. She also attended German and French lessons. Mary Cassatt was fully committed to becoming a professional artist despite her family’s disapproval. She pursued painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Pennsylvania at the age of 15 years. In 1866 she went back to Europe for further studies. She studied hard to beats the traditions of the 19th century where women were home makers (Hale 28). Louvre Museum had hanging paintings which she copied in the pursuit of bettering her skills. Her dream came true when two of her paintings were accepted into Paris Salon in 1868-1871. Mary Cassatt later became a very successful artist of the 19th century and many people envied her career. She played a crucial role in the fight for women empowerment in the society as well as voting rights. Mary was accorded the Legion d’honneur in 1904 by France. Her demise occurred in 1926 age of 82.
Cassatt’s achievements are manifested by herstunning works. Her early works delineated her relatives and friends but later in 1900s she majored in stunning paintings and prints in women and children (Meyer 42). One of her important artwork was a portrait of a little girl in blue armchair in 1878.This impressed lots of people as it reminded them of their youth. Another painting that received much praise and some people even said that it surpassed men’s work was that of a stunning stylish lady attending one of the popular theatres in Paris in 1878 (Meyer 44). In 1881 another artwork of a woman and a girl driving depicted an empowered woman and was unusual at the time. In 1891 she painted a portrait of a woman sealing a letter, other works depicted a woman bathing her child and another her sister Lydia reading a newspaper. The painting on the Art Institute of Chicagowas the largest art made by Cassatt. It portrays women of all ages working together.
Mary Cassatt works had a strong influence from the Japanese arts but she also incorporated her own creativity which made her prints remarkable. Her paintings aimed at women empowerment (Meyer 62). For instance the portrait on Lydia reading a newspaper depicts the importance of women literacy in the 19th century, it also conveyed the message that women were becoming more aware of the current affairs in the society apart from being home makers.it was during this time that women demanded for their right to vote (Hale 79). Besides, the painting on women working and assisting one another symbolized women independence in the wake of a new America
The journey to becoming a popular artist was not easy for Mary Cassatt in her city at Pennsylvania. Her artistic career faced opposition from her father as well as the society. Everybody declined to buy her paintings in New York when she first sold them in 1870. In 1871 all her paintings were turned into ashes in the Great Chicago fire during an exhibition (Meyer 57).
Hale, Nancy. Mary Cassatt. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1975. Print.
Meyer, Susan E. Mary Cassatt. New York: Abrams, 1990. Print.