10. Mary Cassatt
The only American officially associated with the Impressionists, Mary Stevenson Cassat was born in 1844 in what is now Pittsburgh, PA and died in 1926 in Paris. Cassatt is, perhaps, best known for her portraits of women, mothers and children, and sometimes only children, enjoying a quiet peaceful life of an affluent upper middle class. Soft, colorful and warm, Cassatt’s compositions present content and harmony.
In 1868, Cassatt’s painting The Mandolin Player (private collection) was accepted at the Paris Salon, the first time her work was represented there. Following a brief return to the US during the Franco-Prussian War, Cassatt spent several months in Parma, Italy, Spain, Holland and Belgium studying works by Parmigianino, Titian, Michelangelo and other giants of the Renaissance, Classicism and Baroque.
“The only American officially associated with the group, Cassatt exhibited in four of their eight exhibitions, in 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1886. Under their influence, Cassatt revised her technique, composition, and use of color and light, manifesting her admiration for the works of the French avant garde, especially Degas and Manet. Degas, her chief mentor, provided criticism of her work, offered advice on technique, and encouraged her experiments in printmaking. Like Degas, she was chiefly interested in figure compositions. During the late 1870s and early 1880s, the subjects of her works were her family (especially her sister Lydia), the theater, and the opera. Later she made a specialty of the mother and child theme, which she treated with warmth and naturalness in paintings, pastels, and prints.” – Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Mary Cassatt’s art advisory skills lead to the formation of some of the most extensive and important collections of Impressionist and French avant-garde art. One such private collection, curated almost single-handedly by Cassatt, was the Havemeyer Collection. Some 2,000 pieces of art from that collection have been gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
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