Mary Cassat painting of mother and daughter in rowboat titled: L'ETE

Mary Cassatt 1884 – 1926

Mary Cassatt was born in Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, to a wealthy family able to afford her an education that emphasized art, music, and most of all, homemaking skills. At the age of 16, she shocked her parents by insisting on training to be a professional artist. Reluctantly, her father allowed her to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Mary soon realized that the male faculty resented her presence and her talent. She moved, with her mother and sister as chaperones, to Paris in 1866 to further her studies and career.

In Paris, she found that women were not permitted to study at the prestigious art schools, so she studied privately and copied paintings in the Louvre to refine her skills. In 1870, the family was forced back to the U.S. by the Franco-Prussian War. In the states, Mary was miserable and was back in Paris by the end of 1871. She soon aligned herself with the Impressionist movement and was befriended by Edgar Degas who invited her to exhibit her paintings in their shows. Her paintings were known for their bright colors and their realistic portrayals of women and their lives.

While she is often associated with the Impressionist movement, her paintings are strictly individual and are a blend of several schools. Her honest portrayals of mothers with their children are still an inspiration to women and painters today.

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