American painter and printmaker Mary Stevenson Cassatt, popularly known as Mary Cassatt, was born to a prominent Pennsylvanian family on May 22, 1844. At the age of five, Cassatt was privately tutored in art at home, and later on, in 1861, she joined the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Determined to become a professional artist, she moved to Paris in 1866 to learn the art of painting with prominent painters like Jean-Léon Gérôme, Charles Chaplin, and Thomas Couture. Her first successful exhibition was at the Paris Salon of 1872, where she sold her first painting.
In 1877, Cassatt was invited by her friend and a famous painter Edgar Degas to join the group of independent artists known as Impressionists. She achieved astonishing success in her artistic career but stopped painting in 1914 due to her failing eyesight. She died on June 14, 1926, and was buried at Mesnil-Theribus, France. But her legacy remains, and here’s everything to help you learn about Mary Cassatt’s famous paintings and her contributions to the art world.
The Swiftness Style of Cassatt in Child in a Straw Hat (1886)
Although Cassatt created many paintings of little girls in a bonnet and frilly dresses, ‘Child in a Straw Hat’ is considerably higher in rank among her other portraits. In this painting, the little girl is wearing a plain, gray pinafore and an oversized straw hat.
Most of the girls in her paintings appear happy and smiling, but in this painting, the girl’s serious expressions suggest that she is bored and not enjoying herself. She may have been stopped from her play and required to stand still to pose. Her look depicts that she is impatient, frustrated, and bored.
Apart from the listless moment portrayed in the painting, the paint and the colors are handled energetically. The paint was applied swiftly and directly to the canvas to give a spontaneous appearance to the painting. Moreover, the visible brushstrokes can be seen in the composition to form abstract patterns in the portrait, such as smoke and white sleeves of the blouse.
Imitation of Japanese Print in Maternal Kiss (1891)
American painter Mary Cassatt gained most of her fame and reputation through her paintings depicting the bond between a mother and a child. Cassatt’s ‘Maternal Kiss’ is one of her paintings from a series of ten color prints she made to present at the 1981 Galerie Durand-Reul exhibition in Paris. She produced this series as a challenge to imitate the creativity of Japanese prints she saw at the previous exhibition in Paris.
In her painting, Maternal Kiss, Cassatt skilfully portrayed the kind and caring relationship between a mother and a child. Through restrained handling of pattern, color and line, she perfectly depicted the love and kindness of a mother for her child. Moreover, the painting shows that the mother and the child are mutually absorbed in the calm and peaceful presence.
Like the Japanese portraits she admired, the ‘Maternal Kiss’ features compacted space and restricted three-dimensional modeling. She has portrayed home life and nature’s beauty by applying soft pastel colors like yellow, blue, pink, and green.
Feminist Approach of Cassatt in Louise Nursing Her Child (1898)
‘Louise Nursing Her Child’ is an exquisitely sketched pastel painting by Mary Cassatt from 1898 and is among the finest artworks by Mary Cassatt. She produced many paintings of a mother and a child but rarely portrayed the open chest of a woman that we see in this painting.
As shown in the painting, the mother feeds her child with breast milk while looking deeply into each other’s eyes. This portrait depicts that the artist adores the bond of mutual growth between the mother and a child.
In this portrait, the mother wears an orange dress with a black waist and a white undergarment. Moreover, the nudity of the mother’s breast in this painting shows the feminist approach of the artist.
Artistic Hues and Details in Summertime (1894)
Mary Cassatt’s artworks are renowned for their state-of-the-art coloring details and self-explanatory characters. Her painting, ‘Summertime 2’, is one of her marvelous artworks because of the equal distribution of attention on the figures and the landscape.
In Summertime 2, she showed the summer season with the image of a woman and a young girl relaxing on a rowing boat and observing the water and ducks swimming nearby. The several vibrant hues cause multiple reflections on the water that shows the details in the painting.
This painting magnificently shows the artistic abilities of Mary Cassatt. She used red, orange, green, and blue brushstrokes on water and a group of ducks to create an eye-catching moment to attract the viewer’s attention.
Experimental Imitation of Domestic Life in Breakfast in Bed (1897)
Painter Marry Cassatt’s ‘Breakfast in Bed’ is a realistic and experimental imitation of the domestic life of a mother and a child. In this oil painting, we can see that a young mother is lying on a bed, wrapping her arms around the young child as she embraces the child with maternal love.
By closely examining the painting and the expressions of its characters, one can assume that the mother is holding her child so that she can secure her from falling off the bed. Their facial expressions show that the mother is still in need of some more sleep while the child is completely awake and energetic.
Breakfast in Bed has a unique combination of wide brushstrokes, bright colors, and the careful imitation of light effects, making this painting a highly reputed artwork of Cassatt. Her interest in the interplay between the mother and a child discloses domestic life’s joy, tension, and modesty.
Mary Cassatt was among the well-renowned painters of her time and a handful of women who accomplished success through her art. She was the first American woman among the impressionists and gained massive respect through her outstanding artwork, Mary Cassatt’s famous paintings.
Apart from that, Cassatt was also a prominent supporter of the feminist movement and depicted women’s strength and femininity through her paintings. In recognition of her valuable contribution to the arts, France awarded her the famous “Legion d’honneur” award in 1904.