Thursday, May 22, 2008

Today In History; Mary Cassatt, American Painter

1844: Mary Cassatt was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, to a prosperous French-American businessman. A brief stay by the family in Paris when she was seven impressed her deeply and awakened her desire to become an artist. Like almost any ambition at that time, this goal was very difficult for a woman to achieve. After studying painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, she eventually returned to Paris, where she made the acquaintance of Edgar Degas, an Impressionist painter who would influence her strongly throughout her career. As one of the few females among the Impressionists, Cassat's quality of work earned her a place in that movement, which she promoted in America by persuading her wealthy friends to buy paintings by her fellow artists Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Degas, and others. Her early paintings are marked by soft, sentimental lighting and color, but later, after viewing an exhibition of Japanese prints, she began to use more vivid color and precise drawing and to make her own prints, a technique she mastered beautifully. Though she never married, her subjects were often women and children engaged in the ordinary tasks and pleasures of life. She participated in a number of exhibitions in both Europe and America, and well-known museums in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York still house her works.

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