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Edgar Degas' Influence on Cassatt

One of the most influential people in Mary Cassatt’s artistic career was Impressionist artist Edgar Degas. In 1877, Cassatt had the opportunity to participate in the Impressionist’s Exhibition at the invitation of Edgar Degas. Cassatt’s participation in the Impressionist group was significant as she became the only American artist to become an established member of the group.

The backgrounds of two artists were similar in many ways as both came from wealthy upper-middle class families, and both had spent time copying the great masters in France and Italy as a part of their artistic education. Both Cassatt and Degas were intelligent as well as opinionated and they shared a similar taste in literature and in art, both rejected the conventional artistic traditions of the day. Both artists helped to encourage and assist the other’s artistic career. They purchased each other’s paintings and acted as models for each other.

Though Cassatt viewed Degas as her mentor, both of the artists made a significant impact on the other’s work. Cassatt copied Degas’ pastel work and Degas experimented with Cassatt’s techniques of working to combine pastel, gouache, and metallic paint on paper mounted on canvas. Degas inspired Cassatt’s mature style and she was an encouragement to the older artist. He was a frustrating man to deal with but she remained a loyal companion.

Though they had a turbulent 40 year friendship they were close companions who were bound by mutual respect for each other’s art. Cassatt was instrumental in bringing Degas’ niece to care for him as he grew older and his eye site grew poor. In 1917 when Degas died Cassatt was there to attend her friend’s funeral.