Considering the era in which she painted, I find it amazing that Mary Cassatt attained such stature. Perhaps part of that can be attributed to her friendship with Edgar Degas who invited her into the group of artists that we know as the Impressionists. She was the only American in the group and exhibited in four of their eight exhibitions.
Whatever the reason for her success, I am grateful as Mary Cassatt is one of my favorite artists. The warmth and naturalness in her work, particularly her depictions of mother and child, draws me in. Too, I admire her composition and use of color, especially in her pastels.
Until recently, I was most familiar with her paintings, and until visiting an exhibit at the excellent art museum at Maine’s Colby College had no familiarity with her black and white prints. She took up printmaking late in her career, and Degas was an important influence.
Her prints focused mainly on upper class women in Paris where she spent considerable time studying and working. Her prints are scenes of domesticity, childcare and the opera which was one of her favorite outings.
They depict solitary moments
as well as interaction with friends and family.
As I wandered through the exhibit, expressions on faces got more than a little of my attention. Were they sad or, perhaps, lost in moments of introspection? Somehow, done in black and white, Cassatt’s subjects came across differently than in her paintings.
It was interesting to see these works as they expanded my awareness of Cassatt’s considerable talent. Creating in the late 1800’s, she attained stature unusual for a woman. I like to think of her as being ahead of her time.