Boating party, 1893. Of course baby is along and nobody has a life jacket. Living dangerously, with Mary Cassatt, born OTD 1844.
Cassatt, the daughter of a wealthy Pennsylvania businessman, became a student at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1861 and by 1866, moved to Paris. Her teas were a mecca for younger women artists, she was generous with introductions and her professional commitment was an inspiration.
Unlike Alcott, whom Chadwick has paired her with in her discussion of 19th century American women, Cassatt avoided the conflicts facing the woman artist by her wealth, class position, her strong personality and her refusal to marry. Other women were caught within an ideology of sexual difference which gave privileges to males and often forced women to choose between marriage and a career.
It was Degas who encouraged Cassatt to exhibit with the Impressionists after the Salon rejected her work. “At last I could work with complete independence without concerning myself with the eventual judgment of a jury. I already knew who were my true masters. I admired Maent, Courbet, and Degas. I hated conventional art. I began to live.” Degas was equally impressed by Cassatt's work, declaring “There is a woman who feels things like me.” Thereafter, Cassatt was the only American who was invited to show work with the group who exhibited under the name, Societté Anonyme. Cassatt regularly exhibited her work with the French Impressionists, contributing paintings in 1879, 1880, 1881, and to the last exhibition in 1886. (Mary Cassatt's contributions ...)
|Little girl in a blue armchair (Wikiart)...http://mentalfloss.com/article/65011/15-things-you-should-know-about-little-girl-blue-armchair|
"...Cassatt had completely absorbed from her Impressionist colleagues Caillebotte, Degas, and Renoir, as well as her study of Japanese prints, the modern idea that the background of a painting might be as significant as the foreground. She understood that establishing a tension between the two would capture the immediacy of vision, as well as mimic or falsify by turns, the focal shifts of human sight and perception. Thus the space and the objects in Portrait of a Little Girl that surround the figure seem to be in motion; the floor lifts up, and the chairs appear to have slid into various, almost accidental positions, not unlike that of the young girl. These changing elements affect our perception of the painting's psychological subtext: in contrast to [one] made clear by ... direct, outward gaze, that of Cassatt's "subject" is more complicated and elusive; the little girl's sideways glance, which avoids ours, makes her independent of us. She is in a world of her own, one that adults could fully understand only by recapturing their childhood personae."
- From "Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman", by Judith A. Barter
Further reading on Mary Cassatt
* Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman, edited by Judith A. Barter. Catalog from the blockbuster show of 1998.