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Mary Cassatt Biography

    Birth Year : 1845
    Death Year : 1927
    Country : US

One of two women and the only American to show with the Impressionists, Mary Cassatt, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Cassatt was the daughter of a millionaire and spent her adolescence in Europe with her family. When the Cassatt's returned to live in Philadelphia, PA, Mary studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art until she was 23. Then, against her father's wishes, she left for Europe to study further and visit Spain, Italy, and Belgium before going to Paris, France where the sight of a pastel by Edgar Degas changed her life. It was through Degas, who was more her sponsor than her teacher, that Cassatt delighted to be relieved of the arbitrary standards established for acceptance at the official Salons. Cassatt separated her social life from her artistic life and was in some ways unaware of the relaxed artistic atmosphere around her.

Cassatt's subject matter was restricted to the ladylike pastimes and scenes with which Cassatt was surrounded, but her technique and power were by no means limited. She was a good artist in her favorite mediums: pastel, oil, etching, and lithography. Her work has the intellectualized emotion of Edgar Degas; the soft contours of Pierre Auguste Renoir - particularly in Cassatt's many renderings of children and mothers - and the flat surface of Edouard Manet. Additionally, Cassatt was strongly influenced by Japanese prints, and she was adept at handling large color masses. Cassatt achieved the Oriental quality of cleanliness with a sure draughtsmanship. As the wealthiest and most financially influential of the Impressionists, Cassett did a great deal to help her associates. Not only did she purchase many of their works, but she also encouraged her friends, the Havemeyers and the Stillmans, to collect Impressionist art. When conditions were desperate, she even loaned money to the Durand-Ruel Gallery to promote an exhibition. Cassatt received little recognition in her own country until long after her death. She lived and worked in France throughout her life and in 1904 was awarded the French Legion of Honor.