Mary Cassatt was regarded as one of les trois grandes dames of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot. Though the only American in this threesome, Mary was well acquainted with French culture as she spent much of her adult life among Parisian avant-garde artists. Actually, it was not so easy because knowing Monet, Renoir or Degas personally she – as a woman – could not experience the bohemian life in its entirety.
She was born in wealthy, Pennsylvanian upper-middle-class family, in Allegheny City, 22 May 1844. Her father has never fully accepted daughter’s choice of career as a professional artist and refused to sponsor her art supplies, though he paid for her basic needs. In the first years in Europe Mary Cassatt struggled with conservative views of her teachers, academics and critics, her works didn’t sell well, she even couldn’t attend cafes – where the avant-garde socialised.
Simply put female students were not allowed in there. Once even her close friend Edgar Degas, when viewing her Two Women Picking Fruit for the first time, allowed himself to comment: ‘No woman has the right to draw like that’.
In such an atmosphere Cassatt had strengthened her feminist views. Never married, childless, objecting to being stereotyped as a woman artist, she supported suffrage movement from an early age, albeit it brought her into conflict with family. It’s a pure irony that her most recognised masterpieces depict intimate scenes of mothers and children bonding with each other.
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