Interpretive Resource

Artist Biography: Mary Cassatt

A concise biography of Cassatt's life and work.

National Gallery of Art Micro Gallery
National Gallery of Art. Micro Gallery—National Gallery of Art. Online Content. Washington, D.C., 2004.

Mary Cassatt
American, 1844-1926
Mary Cassatt spent most of her career in Paris, though she was an American. She achieved critical success in France but was little appreciated in the United States until late in her career. "I am very much disappointed,"she wrote in 1895, "that my compatriots have so little liking for any of my work."

Born to a prominent Pennsylvania family, Cassatt completed four years of study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1865 she traveled to Paris, where she settled permanently in 1873. Cassatt and Edgar Degas shared a long and mutually beneficial relationship. In 1877 he asked Cassatt to join the Impressionists, and she showed at their group exhibition for the first time two years later.

Like many of her contemporaries Cassatt developed a keen interest in Asian art, especially after she saw, with Degas, a show of Japanese prints at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1890. This influence is evident in the flattened blocks of color and varied viewpoints in her prints and paintings from this decade. During the 1890s, Cassatt principally painted images of mothers and children. She also produced an ambitious mural for the Woman's Building at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. After 1898, the artist devoted more time to advising collectors who were buying impressionist paintings. With her eyesight failing, she painted few works after 1913.

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Mary Cassatt
Mary Cassatt

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