1978.22

1978.22

Artist Biography

Born in Pittsburgh into an old, prosperous Pennsylvania family, Mary Cassatt (1844--1926) received her primary artistic education at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, which she entered in 1860. After the Civil War she traveled to Paris where she studied with several renowned French masters, including Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824--1904) and Thomas Couture (1815--1879). By the mid-1870s she had settled in France permanently. Her friendships with Edgar Degas (1834--1917) and Camille Pissarro (ca. 1830--1903) coincided with a transition in her work toward the dynamic brushwork and high-keyed colors of impressionism. Cassatt devoted herself to portraiture, most frequently depicting women and children, and often chose to feature members of her extended family. The French impressionists invited her to participate in their 1879 exhibition; thereafter, she moved comfortably within their circle, actively exhibiting and selling her paintings, pastels, and prints. Around this time she also began producing etchings and dryprints, which would ultimately number more than two hundred. Later in life she became a supporter of the women's suffrage movement, and during World War I she aided Belgian refugees in France. Although the vigorous modernist movement emerged well before her death, Cassatt never approved of abstract art, which lacked the finish and careful methodology that she herself practiced. Failing eyesight plagued her in her later years, and she died in France in 1926 at age eighty-two.