Saturday, February 19, 2011

A ‘PAINTER OF MOTHERS AND CHILDREN’




Self Portrait (1878)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
From eht.k12.nj.us


Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was not the typical woman of her time. She came from a wealthy family in Pennsylvania. She was well-educated and studied art in Philadelphia. But after a few years she took a radical turn. She left to study art at the major museums in Europe. As her style matured, she made her way to Paris.
(girls-explore.com)


Woman Sitting with a Child in Her Arms
From museobilbao.com


Mother and Child
Wichita Art Museum, Kansas
From artchive.com


Collage of 9 of her most famous works
Assembled by New York Pop Artist, EJ Gold
From artistswholesaleoutlet.com

Maria Cassatt
From galeria.klp.pl
Mary Cassatt is an artist of surprises--mostly small, but often subtle and profound. Known to this day as a "painter of mothers and children," a sobriquet given in her lifetime, she approached this, her favorite subject, with the surprisingly unsentimental but sympathetic clarity she used to address all her subjects. Born into a well-to-do, fairly conventional American family, Mary became a genteel rebel, traveling and living alone, partaking of the bohemian life in Paris while developing a magnificent painter's eye and businesswoman's head. She was the only American (and one of only three women) to exhibit with the Impressionists in Paris--becoming close friends with some of them--but moved very much in her own direction after that group splintered, coming to draw on such disparate inspirations as Symbolism and Japanese prints. Mary is an artist--and an independent artist at that--at a time when no "respectable" woman would consider that possibility; a strong-willed, tough-cored businesswoman and influential tastemaker; and an expatriate who nonetheless always remained identified as an American.
(Art Institute of Chicago at artic.edu)


Bathing the Young Heir
From oceansbridge.com


The Child’s Bath
From princetonol.com


Cassatt embraced the Impressionists' technique. Like them, she painted scenes of everyday life. She focused on the closeness of mothers and children. One famous painting is of a mother bathing her child (above). Mary set these paintings in the home. Her family members often posed as her models. Cassatt never married nor had children of her own. Yet her works capture the tender moments shared by mother and child.
(girls-explore.com)
The Bath by Mary Cassatt received a good deal of attention at the various museum shows at which it was exhibited during the artist’s lifetime, firstly in Paris in 1893, where it was found evidence of Cassatt’s ‘lively sentiment, exquisite taste, and great talent’.
Unusually for this stage in her career, she uses a slightly older child, but she retains the extreme refinement of feeling that characterizes her portraits of babies. Matched to this delicacy she deploys several of her characteristic compositional tactics to great effect, most strikingly the high viewpoint which, as in The Sisters, makes the figure group cohere as a single form, emphasizing the closeness of the two dark heads. The greater monumentality with which the figures are endowed through strategies such as this contributes to the dignified mood.
The influence of the Japanese print is still strong in the play with decorative patterns, in particular in the bottom half of the picture, where striped dress and carpet clash, and in the balancing of vertical and horizontal elements. Intimate feeling and decorative interest are held in a satisfying tension within the composition: the jug echoes both the effect of the child’s white skin against the dark background and the curve of her left arm, while strong vertical movements of the mother’s arm and the child’s legs, and their joint gaze into the washbowl, are reinforced by the wide stripes of the dress.
Again, the mutual absorption of the couple finds expression in the closeness of their hands and the parallel movement of limbs as the mother guides her uncertain child into the water. Caught up in their shared activity, the figures’ faces are withdrawn from us, creating a moment of privacy which the spectator cannot violate.
(Impressionist Art Gallery at impre...llery.com)


Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla
Smithsonian American Art Museum
From museumsyndicate.com


At The Loge
From born-today.com


Le the (Five O'Clock Tea)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
From From artchive.com


Portrait of a Lady
National Gallery of Art, Washington
From artchive.com


Autumn
Musee du Petit Palais, Paris
From (artchive.com)


Lydia Crocheting in the Garden at Marly
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
From artchive.com


Misunderstood Genius
From wikimedia.org


Offering the Panal to the Toreador
From artunframed.com


Often traveling alone, Cassatt studied in Paris, Rome, Parma and Seville, before returning and settling permanently in the French capital in 1874. The paintings she produced in this period--of women flirting, tossing flowers, sharing refreshment with a bullfighter (above) --reveal a young artist eager to combine the skill of the Old Masters with the adventuresome subject matter of the moderns. It was while walking past a Paris gallery window in 1874 that Cassatt first saw a bold pastel of ballet dancers by Edgar Degas--she would later describe this first exposure to the revolution of Impressionism: "I saw art as I wanted to see it. I began to live." That same year, Degas saw Cassatt’s entry in the French Academy Salon; he was quite taken with the work and invited her to join the Impressionists. The timing was perfect, since Cassatt was more than ready to cast off the academic conventions of the Salon. She accepted eagerly, and subsequently became close friends with Degas, as well as Monet, Pissarro, and Morisot. Cassatt was to become the only American whose work would appear in the company of these and many others in the Impressionist exhibitions of 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1886.
(Art Institute of Chicago at artic.edu)


Mary Cassatt by Edgar Degas, 1876
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Mary Cassatt
From poorwilliam.net
Cassatt was well aware of the crucial role Degas played in her Career. She was younger than Degas and looked up to him as a mentor. Art Historian Getlein claims, “she sealed her destiny as an artist” by befriending Degas, he was not only her teacher and companion but also a highly influential painter in the art realm. Cassatt took their friendship very seriously and even when asked to enter her work into the Salon would not unless one of Degas works was showing as well.
This strong bond of loyalty grew stronger between them. Cassatt and Degas became very close companions, not only influencing each other's work but they soon began to paint portraits of one another. It is easy to see Degas' admiration for Cassatt from the portraits he painted of her. He painted her as a strong bold woman, and he even sometimes elevated her to the stature of a man. When women artist's skill was still being questioned, Degas painted Cassatt in a way that accented her bold, capable personality. For instance, in Degas' “Portrait of Mary Cassatt” (1884), above, he places her in a forward thrusting position with her legs slightly apart. Art Historian Tomar Garb claims that Degas was “adapting convention of male portraiture for this representation as an unconventional woman, perhaps thereby asserting the independence and autonomy of an American woman in Paris”. It is clear that both Cassatt and Degas held each other with the up most respect and are known as two of the most influential impressionist artists of their time.
(blogs.princeton.edu)
Mary Cassatt also went to Italy to study Correggio, to Spain to study Velazquez, and to Holland to study Rubens. Although these countries were accustomed to foreign art students, one must wonder if the sight of an American 'signorina' clamoring up and down ladders to study frescoes in dimly lit cathedrals was unusual. During this period, Mary made the transition from art student to professional artist. She did not use her name Cassatt, but rather Mary Stevenson, her given name, leaving off her last name of Cassatt. This was the way she signed her work for the Salon in the late 1860s and early 1870s. She felt it sounded more American.
(pictu...ogram.com)


Portrait of a Little Girl
National Gallery of Art, Washington
From (artchive.com)


"The physicality in Cassatt's work seems to have made some uncomfortable. Eloquently capturing a moment between rest and play, Portrait of a Little Girl, above, portrays the daughter of friends of Degas in an interior with Cassatt's dog. Cassatt submitted the painting to the American section of the 1878 Paris Exposition universelle: its rejection enraged her. The jury could have been affronted by the girl's insouciant sprawl: she has flopped into the chair, looking hot, disheveled, exhausted, even bored. With her clothing pushed up to reveal her legs and petticoat and her left arm lifted and bent around her head, the young model can be perceived as totally unconscious and innocent or as coquettish and sexually precocious. Harriet Chessman argued that the girl's pose derives from the traditional, erotic odalisque and thus was intended to foreshadow her adult sexuality. But in fact it seems that the attraction of this image lies in its naturalism. Children are less self-conscious than adults; they continually, rearrange their clothes and limbs and are often unaware of social conventions. Thus the work can be seen to reflect the then-current view of children as pure and unfettered beings. The jury may have objected to the artist's radical handling of the background. As in her domestic interiors of the time, she reduced spatial depth by choosing a sharp, high angle for the floor, crowding the chairs together, and abruptly cropping the windows. Again, as in Children on Shore, the viewpoint from which the subject is observed is low and empathetic - the same level from which a child would see.
(From "Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman", by Judith A. Barter at artchive.com)


Children on the Shore
From artchive.com


"...Mary Cassatt especially liked children, doting on her nieces and nephews and the offspring of friends. Naturalism and sensuality of a pure, elemental, and nonsexual sort are the hallmarks of Cassatt's portrayals of childhood during the 1880s and 1890s. An example is Children on the Shore, above, which she showed at the last Impressionist exhibition, in 1886. While this seaside subject is unique in her oeuvre, the close-up focus on the pair of toddlers and the firm draftsmanship are typical of the artist's style in the 1880s. In his review of the exhibition, Gustave Geffroy commented on this painting: "It has the sharp outline that things and people have on the sand with the background of water and sky. The short arms and the dollish faces let you guess the flesh under a thick layer of suntan." In the same review, Geffroy also responded to the sensuousness of Cassatt's rendering of youngsters in Children in a Garden, likening them to "flowers in the heat."
(From "Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman", by Judith A. Barter at artchive.com)


The Cassatt Mansion
Built by J Gardner (Cassatt brother)
From davelandweb.com


Though she lived in Europe, Cassatt returned to the United States often. She exhibited her work in the U.S. and advised American art collectors. When a writer began to write her biography, she told him: "I am an American, simply and frankly an American
(girls-explore.com)

Mary Cassatt (left) 2
From academics.smcvt.edu
Cassatt returned to the United states in 1898 where she met the Havemeyer family and came in contact with young Electra Havemeyer. She returned to Europe where she had ambitiously developed her career as an artist, becoming internationally famous for her magnificent artwork. Her last visit to America was in 1908, and soon after she traveled to Egypt with her brother. In 1912, Mary suffered from serious emotional instability and also had surgery for cataracts. In 1914, she was awarded the Gold Medal of Honor by the Pennsylvania Academy when at the same time it was noted that she was forced to stop painting because of her blindness. Mary Cassatt died in 1926 as a legend in the Impressionist movement and the history of American collecting.
(academics.smcvt.edu)


3 comments:

SKL said...

Your essay is very well written, interesting and easy to read. Wonderful to read about Mary Cassatt in this way. Not taken seriously in my History of Art studies. Lovely to see. Thank you!

rompedas said...

Thank you SKL for the kind words.

scott davidson said...

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It's available as a canvas print of any size to be delivered to your home, from wahooart.com. It's affordable too.