Credit: Ciana Pullen
Mary Cassatt was an American painter and printmaker who helped lead the impressionist art movement. She was born in the Pittsburgh area but spent most of her life in France, where she befriended fellow artist Edgar Degas. Her work focused on women, specifically the intimacy of mother-daughter relationships.
Cassatt was born into an upper middle class family with her mother Katherine acting as her major influence. She traveled while receiving her education, studying in capital cities like London, Paris and Berlin. She attempted to study painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts but dropped out and moved to Paris to study privately with Jean-Léon Gérôme. She worked as a copyist at the Louvre and exhibited in the Salon. Her return to Pennsylvania deterred her from continuing art until she was commissioned by the Archbishop of Pittsburgh to paint copies of two paintings in Italy, for which he provided her travel fare to return to Europe.
Upon returning to Europe, Cassatt's painting sales improved and she became a key figure in the impressionist movement, a group she was invited to by Degas. She focused on painting quality work but this action was stunted with her sister's passing. Cassatt evolved her style with works that followed the death, and was criticized for her use of bright colors and unflattering accuracy of subjects. She made her own name by separating herself from movements and exhibiting where possible.
Cassatt is best recognized for her mother-daughter works and her painting of the “New Woman” which portrayed the feminist ideal of independence and self-sufficiency. Cassatt herself never intended to marry. Cassatt's later years were spent guiding young talents including Pissarro. She inspired other young artists and has received recognition from the US Postal Service, Julliard and Google. Much of her work is on display in New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art.