Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt was an Impressionist painter who lived during the mid 1800s. Coming to the art scene a bit later than the rest of the Impressionists, she was no less respected or influential that the rest of her contemporaries. Mary Cassatt was American by birth. She studied first at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts during the course of the American Civil War. Against the will of her parents, who were never keen on the idea of Cassatt becoming a painter nor moving away, Cassatt moved to France. The great art center of theworld was, at the time, Paris. Also there were the Impressionists, whose influence Cassatt had felt early on. Cassatt fell into the little group of upstart artists quite easily and became fast friends with Edgar Degas.

Cassatt painted a vast number of a paintings throughout her career. The majority of these depict women and children, sometimes as the focus of the painting, but also as mere elements to flush out a larger, more detailed work focusing on something else. An example of this would be her painting Poppies in a Field. This painting shows a huge, sweeping field filled with bright red poppies, small white flowers, larger purple flowers and green and yellow grass swaying gently in an unseen breeze. There are three individuals scattered throughout the painting. A small child sits at the bottom edge of the painting. Two women in hats are farther back, one picking flowers, the other watching the seen just as the viewer is.

Unlike the last painting, Mary Cassatt’s Autumn, is focused completely on the individual. Sitting on a bench in a park is a woman. A long, multicolored overcoat in the reds, yellows and oranges of fall is draped about her shoulders and nearly covers her entirely. This overcoat blends in to the orange and green of the forest behind her until it is nearly impossible to distinguish one from the other. Only the black bonnet and pale face of the woman stand out from the rest of the scenery and inform us of her existence.

Cassatt was a very lucky painter. She was a woman painter during a time when it was mostly men that were leading the art scene. By her colleagues she was accepted, even if family and others of the general public did not approve of her selfmade role in the art world. As an artist she also achieved great success. Not only did the Impressions readily accept her into their fold, but Cassatt also achieved success at the Salon, a venue that normally made or broke an artist. She was not accepted to exhibit at the Salon every year, but enjoyed much more success their than most of the other Impressionists. This great artist who had very nearly given up her art career early in life has now found a permanent place in the hearts of art lovers across the globe.


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