Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt was an American painter who spent most of her life in France. She was part of a group of artists in Paris known as Impressionists. Cassatt’s most-famous paintings focus on mothers caring for small children.

Self Portrait

Cassatt was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and at age 15 began studying art. Her parents were not excited about her becoming an artist. They were very wealthy and expected her to become a well-educated wife and mother.

Young Mother Sewing

Instead, she decided to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts without her parents' support. At school she became frustrated because the male students and teachers refused to take her seriously. She wasn’t allowed to paint live models and could paint only inanimate objects.

Blue Armchair

After four years, Cassatt dropped out of the academy and moved to Paris to study. Women were not allowed to attend school, so instead she went to the Louvre Museum to study art there. One of her pieces was accepted into a show at the Paris Salon, a very famous art exhibition that was difficult to get into.

Mother and Child

Cassatt painted friends or relatives with their children in the Impressionist style. She tried to capture the effects of light and color rather than painting a detailed copy of figures.

Breakfast in Bed

For years Cassatt had a difficult time supporting herself as a painter, so she put away her brushes and tried to pursue other ways to make money. Fortunately, an archbishop in Italy hired her to paint copies of famous painting.

Woman with a Pearl Necklace

Her career was rocky. She struggled to sell her work and most male painters didn’t like her. She could be critical of other painters’ work. Edgar Degas, a French artist, was the exception. He became her friend and helped her career grow. She was the only American artist to exhibit with the Impressionists in Paris. In turn, she helped Degas sell his work in the United States.

The Child’s Bath

During the 1890’s, Cassatt’s paintings of women and children finally became very popular. As her popularity grew, she was able to encourage her wealthy American friends and family to buy Impressionist paintings. This really helped to push the acceptance of Impressionism in the United States.

The Boating Party

Around 1900 Cassatt started to go blind. By 1914 she stopped painting altogether. Cassatt died on June 14, 1926, at Château de Beaufresne, near Paris.

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