The first American Impressionist artist, Mary Cassatt was born in Pittsburgh. Her family lived for a few years in Europe. Cassatt studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, then, as the Civil War ended, moved to France, where she remained for the rest of her life except for occasional trips to visit the United States. She remained a U.S. citizen, though, and took a special interest in the woman suffrage movement in her home country.
Mary Cassatt was influenced especially by Degas. She was the only American invited to the Impressionist circle who accepted the invitation. She became especially known for her mother-and-child paintings. Under Mary Cassatt's influence, many Americans collected Impressionist art.
In 1892, she was invited to contribute a large mural on the theme of "modern woman" to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, to be held in 1893. Another artist contributed the paired mural on "primitive woman."
Her popularity continued, even as she turned from newer Parisian painting movements. Cataracts interfered with her ability to do her painting, despite multiple operations, and she was nearly blind the last decade of her life. She continued her involvement, despite her vision problems, with the woman suffrage cause and, during World War I, with humanitarian causes to help those affected by the war including wounded soldiers.
Selected Mary Cassatt Quotations
• There's only one thing in life for a woman; it's to be a mother… A woman artist must be… capable of making primary sacrifices.
• I think that if you shake the tree, you ought to be around when the fruit falls to pick it up.
• Why do people so love to wander? I think the civilized parts of the World will suffice for me in the future.
• I am independent! I can live alone and I love to work.
• I hated conventional art. I began to live.
• I have touched with a sense of art some people - they felt the love and the life. Can you offer me anything to compare to that joy for an artist?
• Americans have a way of thinking work is nothing. Come out and play they say.
• American women have been spoiled, treated and indulged like children; they must wake up to their duties.
• There are two ways for a painter: the broad and easy one or the narrow and hard one.
• If painting is no longer needed, it seems a pity that some of us are born into the world with such a passion for line and color.
• Cezanne is one of the most liberal artists I have ever seen. He prefaces every remark with Pour moi it is so and so, but he grants that everyone may be as honest and as true to nature from their convictions; he doesn't believe that everyone should see alike.
• I have not done what I wanted to, but I tried to make a good fight.
• Degas to Mary Cassatt: Most women paint as though they are trimming hats. Not you.
• Edourd Degas about Mary Cassatt: I don't admit that a woman draws that well!
• Quoted in The American Woman's Almanac, Louise Bernikow Mary Cassatt's visit home, long after she had become famous in Europe, was reported in the Philadelphia newspaper as the arrival of "Mary Cassatt, sister of Mr. Cassatt, President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, who has been studying painting in France and owns the smallest Pekingese dog in the world."
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