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Mary Cassatt (1845-1926), An American painter and printmaker born in 1845 in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, Mary Cassatt spent 5 years as a child in Paris. After studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1865-1866), she returned to paint in Italy. She exhibited with the Impressionists between 1877-1886. Cassatt admired the Realist artist Courbet and the Impressionist painter Manet, but was mainly influenced by her friend Degas, who used her as a subject for many of his own paintings.
After the final Impressionist exhibition of 1886, Cassatt began to experiment more widely, transforming her imagery with references to the Old Master Madonna and Child paintings as well as Japanese prints. Her experiments with printmaking at this time resulted in one of the great graphic monuments of the nineteenth century: the set of ten color prints first shown at Galeries Durand-Ruel in Paris in 1891. Gradually she abandoned Impressionist work for paintings that emphasized shapes and forms. She did a series of color prints that combined drypoint, etching, and aquatint by studying Japanese woodblock techniques. By 1890, she had her own printing press at her home.
As a wealthy expatriate, she had the means to devote herself to her art and used her domestic life as subject matter. She painted fashionable women conversing with one another over tea and at outings with their friends and children. Her pictures are characterized by spontaneity and freshness of vision, which prevails in the asymmetrical and unposed figures of her oil paintings. Her drawings and prints show a personal mastery of perspective that reflect her interest in both the works of Degas and Asian art.
Upon her death in 1926, Cassatt was honored by a number of memorial exhibitions. Today she remains one of the most acclaimed American-born artists and consequently has been the subject of major exhibitions. “Mary Cassatt, Modern Woman”, which opened at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998 and was the first traveling retrospective of her work in 30 years, included 100 of her most beautiful paintings.