Mary Cassatt

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Cassatt, Mary

(kəsăt`), 1844–1926, American figure painter and etcher, b. Pittsburgh. Most of her life was spent in France, where she was greatly influenced by her great French contemporaries, particularly Manet and Degas, whose friendship and esteem she enjoyed. She allied herself with the impressionists early in her career. Motherhood was Cassatt's most frequent subject. Her pictures are notable for their refreshing simplicity, vigorous treatment, and pleasing color. She excelled also as a pastelist and etcher, and her drypoints and color prints are greatly admired. She is well represented in public and private galleries in the United States. Her best-known pictures include several versions of Mother and Child (Metropolitan Mus.; Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston; Worcester, Mass., Art Mus.); Lady at the Tea-Table (Metropolitan Mus.); Modern Women, a mural painted for the Women's Building of the Chicago exposition; and a portrait of the artist's mother.


See catalog by A. D. Breeskin (1970, rev. ed. 1980); N. M. Mathews, ed., Cassatt and Her Circle: Selected Letters (1984); N. Hale, Mary Cassatt (1987); N. M. Mathews, Mary Cassatt: A Life (1994).

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Cassatt, Mary (Stevenson)

(1845–1926) painter; born in Allegheny City, Pa. Born into a well-to-do family, she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1861–65) but found it old fashioned; between 1866–74 she studied and painted in Paris, Italy, Spain, and Holland, finally settling in Paris, her home for the rest of her life. Befriended by Degas, she was soon characterized an impressionist painter in both style and subject matter; in fact by 1883 she was emphasizing more the linear aspect. Another influence on her style was an 1890 exhibition of Japanese prints in Paris. She never married, but her own family gravitated to her in Paris; from 1910 on, her increasingly poor eyesight virtually put an end to her serious painting. She is best known for her luminous portraits of women and children such as The Morning Toilet (1886) and Mother Feeding a Child (1898). A less recognized legacy was her influence in getting many Americans to acquire Impressionist and other contemporary French paintings now in U.S. museums.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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