Born: 22 May 1844; Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: 14 June 1926; Château de Beaufresne, near Paris, France
Art Movement: Impressionism
Genre: genre painting
An American painter and printmaker, Mary Cassatt was an impressionist painter, who depicted the lives of women, especially the special bond between mother and child. She traveled extensively as a child, and was probably exposed to the works of the great masters at the World’s fair in Paris in 1855. Other artist’s, such as Degas and Pissarro, would later become her mentors and fellow painters. She began studying art seriously at the age of 15, at a time when only around twenty percent of all arts students were female. Unlike many of the other female students, she was determined to make art her career, rather than just a social skill. She was disappointed at her art education in the United States, and moved to Paris to study art under private tutors in Paris. Her mother and family friends traveled with her to France, acting as chaperones.
She continued her art education in France, and her first work was accepted into the Paris Salon in 1868. At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, however, she returned to the United States to live with her family. Her father, who did not approve of her chosen vocation as an artist, paid for her living expenses, but refused to pay for her art supplies. During her stay in the United States, Cassatt was miserable. She exhibited some paintings but found no buyers, and upset at the lack of art to study, she quit painting and almost gave up the craft. After a trip to Chicago, her work was noticed by the Archbishop of Pittsburgh, who commissioned from her a copy of two of Correggio’s paintings in Italy. He offered to pay for her travel expenses and she immediately left the United States.