Among the talented women who played an important role in the art of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, focused on their purpose of achieving their realization and recognition as artists by profession, is Mary Cassatt, an American born in Pennsylvania on 22 May 1844 and died in France on June 14, 1926, a country where she lived for more than 50 years.
From a young age, Mary Cassatt showed ability to draw, and although her family didn’t fully agree with her being a professional artist, at the age of 15 they allowed her to study painting at the Academy of the Fine Arts in Pennsylvania. In 1866 she traveled to Paris, but since women couldn’t study at the École des Beaux-Arts, she decided to take private classes with professors from that institution, training that she complemented with the studies and copies she made of some works in the Louvre Museum.
In 1868 one of her paintings was accepted by the selection jury of the Paris Salon, the most important artistic event in the world between 1748 and 1890. Cassatt was one of the first American women to exhibit at the Salon. By that time (1868), Impressionism was in the process of gestation, made up of a group of young artists who reacted against the rigid teaching method taught by the Academy and the strict acceptance policy of the Paris Salon.
Impressionism was the first movement that opposed the predominant aesthetic taste at that time, in favor of a new way of capturing reality and painting, characterized by working outdoors, with the purpose of capturing the effect or the changing behavior of light and color on reality, as a result of the visual impression of the artist, being the landscape and the scenes of modern life its main themes, executed with a short and rapid brushstroke without mixing the colors on the palette, which they were administered directly on the canvas by juxtaposition.
At the end of 1871, against of what she wanted, Cassatt returns to the United States, but there she doesn’t have the support of her father to continue dedicating herself to art. She manages to exhibit in New York and although her work was accepted by the public, there were no buyers; To this were added other adversities that led the artist to think about suspending her profession as a painter to dedicate herself to a job that would generate income and thus be able to return to Europe, which she manages to do, but by way of commission from an archbishop, who asked her for some copies of the painter Correggio, in Italy, and provided her with money to cover all her expenses.
At the end of her assignment, she travels through Spain, paints, exhibits, and sells some of her artworks, until 1874 when she decided to settle permanently in Paris and opens a studio. Around 1877 she met Edgar Degas, who invited her to show her works to her fellow Impressionists; He also encouraged her to join the group, with whom she was active until 1886, being the second woman in the group, after the French Berthe Morisot. Cassatt and Degas were very good friends. Degas had a considerable influence on her, becoming very skillful in handling pastel colors, with whose technique she made many of her most important works.
Mary Cassatt represented in her painting, mainly, images of the social and private life of women, with special emphasis on the relationships between them and their children (1) (2). She also represented the daily life of common women at the end of the 19th century.
Cassatt was not only an American who embraced the French Impressionist style and who lived most of her life in France, but she is also considered the person most responsible for the introduction of Impressionism in the United States, since in 1886 she introduced 300 paintings by artists such as Manet, Monet, Degas and Sisley, which today are part of important collections in the country.