ART 4 2-DAY 14 June v.8.90
Died on 14 (10?) June 1698: Gerrit
Adriaenszoon Berckheyde, Dutch architectural painter baptized
as an infant on 06 June 1638. Brother and student of Job
Adriaenszoon Berckheyde [27 Jan 1630 – 23 Nov 1693]. He also studied
— During the 1650s the brothers made an extended trip to Germany along the Rhine, visiting Cologne, Bonn, Mannheim and finally Heidelberg. Whether this occurred before or after 1654, when Job became a master of the Guild of Saint Luke in Haarlem, is uncertain. According to legend, the brothers worked in Heidelberg for Charles Ludwig [–1680], Elector Palatine; however, their inability to adapt to court life led them to return to Haarlem, where Gerrit became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke on 27 July 1660. In Haarlem the Berckheyde brothers shared a house and perhaps a studio as well.
The idea that Job was the superior artist and habitually contributed the figures to Gerrit’s architectural subjects has been discounted, but the degree of their mutual influence and involvement remains unclear. Confusion between them may have resulted from the similarity of their signatures, where Job’s j resembles Gerrit’s g. Job also signed his work with an H (for Hiob or Job) and with the monogram HB. Gerrit specialized in a particular type of architectural subject, the townscape. His painted work shows a debt not only to Pieter Saenredam’s conception of the building portrait but also to Saenredam’s refined draftsmanship and dispassionate attitude; these qualities mark Berckheyde as a classicist and akin to Vermeer. Berckheyde favored views of monuments on large open squares, a choice that distinguishes him from the other great Dutch townscape painter, Jan van der Heyden, who preferred views along canals in which clarity was sacrificed for pictorial effect.
— Gerrit Berckheyde was christened on 06 June 1638 in Haarlem. He studied under his elder brother, the painter Job Berckheyde and Frans Hals. Together with his brother, he worked in Heidelberg for a while for the Elector Palatine. In around 1660 he returned to Haarlem and in the summer of that year was admitted to the St Luke guild, the local society of artists. In 1698 he drowned in Haarlem's Brouwersvaart canal. After 1660, Berckheyde painted almost only townscapes, mainly of Haarlem, Amsterdam and The Hague. Despite the number of works he painted, and the frequent repetitions, he always produced paintings of exceptional quality.
— The Town Hall on the Dam, Amsterdam (1672, 34x42cm) _ Amsterdam town hall is pictured here in bright sunlight in all its glory. The building was designed by the painter and (mostly) architect Jacob van Campen [1595-1657]. The first stone was laid in 1648, after the signing of the Treaty of Münster, by which, after 80 years of war, Spain recognized the Dutch Republic as a sovereign state, and which gave Gerard ter Borch II [1617-1681] the opportunity to paint The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, 15 May 1648 (46x60cm). Van Campen left the technical execution of the building and its completion to the city architect, Daniël Stalpaert. The enormous classical building became famous even before it was completed in about 1700. The building soon became known (locally) as the 'eighth wonder of the world'. This painting emphasizes the general admiration of Van Campen's architecture. Berckheyde has filled the canvas almost entirely with the building. To liven up the painting he has placed a group of people and a horse in the foreground.
— The Weigh House and the Crane on the Spaarne in Haarlem (32x45cm) _ This is a characteristic part of Haarlem. The river, the Spaarne, was Haarlem's main artery in the seventeenth century. On the Spaarne barges are shown loaded with cargo. Goods imported into the city had to be weighed or measured at the city's official public Weigh House, the large stone building on the corner. The duty could then be assessed. The Weigh House was built in the late 16th century of hard, blue Namur stone. Weigh houses were usually free-standing buildings, with wide open entrances on several sides. A variety of large scales were kept in the hall. Heavy goods were hoisted out of the barges by crane, which can be seen beside the Weigh House. The church spire on the left belongs to the Bakenessen church. The Weigh House and the Bakenessen church still dominate views of Haarlem.
Gerrit Berckheyde, who specialized in painting views of towns, was a native of Haarlem. He frequently took his hometown as the subject of his paintings, although he also immortalized Amsterdam and The Hague. Berckheyde played subtly with light and shade in his paintings, choosing the sun's position so that the stepped gables of the houses along the Spaarne caught the full sun. Yet the façade of the Weigh House, which most catches the eye in this painting, lies in shadow. The contrast between light and shade on the spire of the Bakenessen church is also striking.
— The Bend in the Herengracht near the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat in Amsterdam (1672, 40x63cm) _ The canal and houses have been depicted rigidly and symmetrical. Gerrit Berckheyde has painted the bend on Herengracht canal between Leidsestraat and Vijzelstraat with extreme accuracy. This was a newly built part of Amsterdam, part of an extensive plan to expand the city in the seventeenth century. That is why the canal looks so bare. Later on, this part of the canal was to become known as the Golden Bend due to the magnificent buildings and wealthy inhabitants.
Berckheyde has placed the buildings in perspective with mathematical precision. A cool light accentuates the places that are still empty. To the right, on the side at the corner of Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, a new house is still to be built. The piles are visible in the ground. Shadow covers the foreground and the right side of the canal. The houses on both sides are reflected in the water of the canal. There is a little activity, either on water or land.
This is a remarkable sight - a canal without trees. Unconcealed, the façades stand out in all their glory. In 1685 Berckheyde painted another view of the Golden Bend, although this time from the other side. It is just as bare as the view from 1672. However there are plenty of trees in View of the Herengracht, Amsterdam (1670; 900x1074pix, 186kb) painted by Jan van der Heyden [1637-1712].
This part of Herengracht was monopolized by the wealthier citizens of Amsterdam who could afford to build their own houses. Many of these still stand today, although most have undergone some changes over the years. The proud statues on the gables have disappeared and the steps leading up to the house on the right have gone. Hardly any of these buildings are homes anymore. Today, most are occupied by businesses.
In the seventeenth century, people flooded into Amsterdam from rural areas and abroad. This was stimulated by the growth in the economy and the relative religious freedom in the city. Amsterdam was constantly expanding beyond the city limits. In the seventeenth century a new phase of growth took place. The south side of Herengracht, where the Golden Bend lies, was constructed after 1657, as were the south sides of Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht. It was at this time that Amsterdam acquired its characteristic semi-circular shape.
— The Market Square at Haarlem with Saint-Bavo (1696)
— The Interior of the Grote Kerk (Saint-Bavo) at Haarlem (1673, 61x85cm)
— Amsterdam, the Nieuwezijds near the Bloemmarkt (1675, 54x61cm)
— The Exterior Of The Church Of Saint Bavo In Harlem (1666, 60x84cm)
— Dam Square, Amsterdam (41x55cm)
>Died on 14 June 1907: Giuseppe
Pellizza da Volpedo, Italian painter born on 28
— He came from a farming family and in 1884 began attending drawing classes at the Accademia di Brera in Milan. He also began to study painting, first under Giuseppe Puricelli [1832–1894] and then in 1886–1887 under Pio Sanquirico [1847–1900], but in 1887 he broke off his studies at the Brera and moved to Rome in order to attend the Accademia di S Luca. He very soon became disappointed by the teaching there, which he combined with attendance at the life class at the Académie de France, and went to Florence, where from 1888 he was a student of Giovanni Fattori at the Accademia di Belle Arti.
After a few months he returned to Volpedo, where he began painting portraits and landscapes that show the influence of the Macchiaioli in their limpid layers of light and geometrically balanced compositions (e.g. Portrait of the Poor Girl and La Piazza di Volpedo, both 1888). In the autumn of 1888, wanting to consolidate his drawing skills, Pellizza moved to Bergamo, where he studied under Cesare Tallone at the Accademia Carrara di Belle Arti. In October 1889 he visited the Exposition Universelle in Paris, but early in 1890 he returned for two months to the Accademia Carrara.
— Nato a Volpedo, un piccolo centro della campagna alessandrina, Giuseppe Pellizza scelse di vivere lontano dalle capitali artistiche europee di fine Ottocento in un isolamento che rispondeva alla sua necessità di poter riflettere e operare in assoluta indipendenza. Nello stesso tempo, però, l'artista "si nutriva" di frequenti viaggi e soprattutto di continui scambi con i più importanti centri italiani che lo videro, di volta in volta, presenza significativa nelle maggiori rassegne espositive. Un profondo impegno critico connotò sempre la sua produzione consentendogli di raggiungere risultati di statura internazionale nell'ambito della tecnica divisionista usata anche come strumento flessibile e adatto a inverare contenuti via via più impegnativi nel rapporto col vero, e nella interpretazione simbolica della natura e della vita umana.
–- Autoritratto (11 Jan 1887 rough pen sketch, 15x12cm; 235x180pix, 6kb)
–- Il Quarto Stato (1901, 293x545cm; 503x750pix, 37kb) _ .detail (861x933pix, 100kb) _ Il quarto Stato fu eseguito da Pellizza tra il 1898 e il 1901, ma il lavoro di elaborazione di questo tema, legato al riconoscimento delle problematiche sociali che si affacciavano prepotentemente alla ribalta con l'avanzare dell'industrializzazione, era incominciato fin dal 1981, anno in cui aveva, per la prima volta, rappresentato una protesta di lavoratori sull'area di piazza Malaspina a Volpedo.
Questo spazio rimase il luogo fisso nel quale Pellizza ambientò le varie fasi della sua opera di storia contemporanea, da Ambasciatori della fame, a Fiumana e, infine, a Il Quarto Stato in cui una schiere di popolo avanza, guidata da un terzetto composto da due uomini e una donna col bambino in braccio. La messa a punto delle figure rivela il progressivo affinamento dei mezzi di costruzione della forma che arriva ad esiti di serena oggettività attraverso l'approfondito studio dei grandi modelli della decorazione storica rinascimentale.
L'articolazione del gruppo si sorregge su un ritmo ondulato che suggerisce, nel passaggio da una forma all'altra, il moto cadenzato ma ineluttabile nella schiera verso la massima luce che domina nel primo piano; ma che rende possibile anche il suo fisico e ideale collegamento con la natura stessa, col più oscuro tramonto da cui sembrano provenire.
Progresso sociale e riflessione sulla natura andavano di pari passo, e la scelta di eseguire il quadro con la tecnica divisionista, se permetteva di ottenere risultati di grande efficacia luminosa e cromatica, ribadiva anche l'assoluta volontà di collegare contenuti nuovi e moderni con una tecnica che era ad un tempo frutto e simbolo del progresso scientifico ottocentesco; in una dimensione di fiducia nel progresso generale della società che accompagnava l'aprirsi del nuovo secolo.
–- Speranze deluse (1894, 110x170 cm; 397x595, 60kb) _ Questo è uno dei quadri che alla Triennale di Brera del 1894 fecero riconoscere in Giuseppe Pellizza uno dei grandi protagonisti della pittura Italiana del tardo ottocento: positivamente apprezzato dalla giovane e aperta critica milanese, fu acquistato da uno dei maggiori collezionisti del tempo e spinse Segantini e Morbelli a riconoscere nel giovane artista di Volpedo un sicuro compagno di strada. Dipinto nel 1893-1894 nella zona del prato Cassanini a Volpedo, raffigura un tema caro al realismo ottocentesco: una giovane pastorella piange il tradimento del promesso sposo che sullo sfondo celebra il matrimonio con un’altra donna. Ma la tenuità e la vaga sentimentalità del tema si riscattano trasponendosi in più universali valori psicologico-emozionali, grazie alla rigorosissima struttura compositiva che con nitide geometrie e volumi oppone l’impianto triangolare/piramidale della fanciulla al parallelepipedo definito dal prato, dal cielo e dalla compatta articolazione di case e monti. Pellizza sperimenta qui consapevolmente la capacità comunicativa delle forme geometriche, rese più significative grazie all’impiego della tecnica divisionista che consente di graduare esattamente toni e valori luminosi. con Speranze Deluse si realizza uno dei primi convincenti paradigmi del divisionismo pellizziano.
— Carità cristiana (346x682ydb, 71kb) _ Piccolo ma prezioso bozzetto per un'opera di più grandi dimensioni, Sul fienile (1893, 133x244cm; 323x619pix, 19kb), la tavola mostra la particolare tecnica divisionista del pittore, della quale diventerà maestro, l'attenzione nella resa del trascorrere di luci e ombre in un'assolata giornata estiva e la ricerca di tematiche sociali quale soggetto privilegiato della sua arte.
— Panni al sole (1894, 87x131 cm; 409x619pix, 88kb) _ Si tratta di uno studi accurato, anche se lasciato incompiuto, e la sua elaborazione va collocata proprio negli anni in cui Pellizza cercava di impadronirsi compiutamente della tecnica divisionaria. Uno dei più affascinanti capolavori del Ottocento italiano, in cui la solarità della luce chiara e limpida sottolinea la ritmica sequenza dei tronchi d’albero che graduano la profondità del campo visivo accompagnato dalle bianche lenzuola stese che generano le larghe zone d’ombra verde sul lungo viale. È una delle poche opere del divisionismo italiano ad aver retto in varie occasioni il confronto internazionale con prodotti neoimpressionisti”.
— Lo specchio della vita - (E ciò che l'una fa e l'altre fanno) (1898, 132x291cm; 250x528pix, 28kb) _ L'originario motivo di un gregge, guidato da un pastore sull'argine del Curone nell'estate del 1894, fu rielaborato progressivamente da Pellizza in una sapiente composizione pittorica, capace di comunicare coi puri mezzi delle forme e del colore una forte emozione che si intensifica nella percezione del ritmo ondulato che sorregge il moto lento delle pecore, lo scorrere delle acque del torrente, la vasta pianura, la linea delle colline di fondo e il cielo con le sue soffici nuvole. Anzi le pecore col loro moto rendono percepibili le vibrazioni luminose, frutto di riflessi e rifrazioni incrociate che accentuano la mobilità della costruzione, ritagliata come su uno schermo cinematografico entro la vasta cornice dipinta che traduce in linee astratte il moto ondulatorio della natura. Dal vero, attraverso la sottile meditazione dantesca, Pellizza afferma nell'assolutezza della sua visione pittorica il continuo rinnovarsi del mistero della vita.
— Il sole nascente (1904, 155x155cm; 503x510cm, 34kb) _ Scrivendo all’amico Occhini nell’Aprile 1903, Pellizza delineò per la prima volta il tema di questo suo quadro, precisando di voler scegliere “soggetti eterni”, e quindi di volere trattare “la bella natura che assorbe l’uomo e lo annienta per campeggiare essa stessa sfolgorando la sua immortale bellezza”. L’intenso desiderio di tradurre sulla tela gli spettacoli più emozionanti della natura lo spingeva a salire, ancora in piena notte, le colline circostanti e raggiungere oltre Monleale la località Ceselli, in regione Brada, per attendere, pronto davanti al suo cavalletto, l’apparire sfolgorante del sole.
Il sole appare sulla linea dei colli con la sua immagine sferica che coincide col massimo bianco e da cui irraggia una fitta sequenza di tratti che vanno progressivamente allungandosi verso i bordi della tela e che passano dal giallo all’arancio, al viola, al verde. Il bagliore non elimina ma riassorbe in sé e vela la percezione della natura circostante, dell’ampia valle in primo piano con alberi e cascinali di cui si intravedono le forme essenziali. La critica apprezzò in genere l’opera nel momento in cui fu esposta a Milano alla Mostra celebrativa del traforo del Sempione del 1906, tenutasi negli spazi del Castello Sforzesco, anche se non tutti colsero il valore estraente e simbolico della visione pellizziana. All’esposizione milanese l’opera fu acquistata dal Ministero per la Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna di Roma, al prezzo di lire 2500.
— Idillio primaverile (1907, 100cm diam.; 504x418pix, 53kb)
— La Processione (1894, 95x130cm; 282x593pix, 52kb)
— L'appeso (1893, 67x50cm; 380x320pix, 10kb)
— La piazza di Volpedo (1888, 78x96 cm; 459x621pix, 35kb)
— Ricordo di un dolore o Ritratto di Santina Negri (1889, 107x79cm; 588x405pix, 21kb)
— Ritratto di mio papà (1890, 200x100cm; 685x340pix, 30kb)
— Ritratto di mia mamma (1890, 200x100cm; 689x323pix, 24kb)
Died on 14 June 1926: Mary
Stevenson Cassatt, expatriate US Impressionist
painter born on 22 May 1844, specialized in Children.
Painter and printmaker. Attended Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 1861-1865. Worked briefly with Charles Joshua Chaplin in Paris but preferred to study and copy old masters independently. After a brief return to the US, travelled to Italy. Spent 8 months at Parma studying Correggio. Exhibited for the first of five successive years at the Paris Salon in 1872. Became member of the Impressionist group in 1877, and exhibited with them 1879-1881 and 1886. Cassatt greatly admired Gustave Courbet, but was particularly allied with the Impressionists. Edgar Degas was her close friend and influenced her style in the late 1870s. Soon after 1900, Cassatt's eyesight began to fail and by 1914 she was no longer working.
Mary Cassatt lived and worked in France as an important member of the Impressionist group. Cassatt was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. In 1861 she began to study painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, but proclaimed her independence by leaving in 1866 to paint in France. By 1872, after studying in the major museums of Europe, her style began to mature, and she settled in Paris. There her work attracted the attention of the French painter Edgar Degas, who invited her to exhibit with his fellow impressionists. One of the works she showed was The Cup of Tea (1879), a portrait of her sister Lydia in luminescent pinks. Beginning in 1882 Cassatt's style took a new turn. Influenced, like Degas, by Japanese woodcuts, she began to emphasize line over mass and experimented with asymmetric composition — as in The Boating Party (1893) — and informal, natural gestures and positions. Portrayals of mothers and children in intimate relationship and domestic settings became her theme. Her portraits were not commissioned; instead, she used members of her own family as subjects. France awarded Cassatt the Legion of Honor in 1904; although she had been instrumental in advising the first American collectors of impressionist works, recognition came more slowly in the United States. With loss of sight she was no longer able to paint after 1914.
Mary Cassatt was the daughter of an affluent Pittsburgh businessman, whose French ancestry had endowed him with a passion for that country. She studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and then traveled extensively in Europe, finally settling in Paris in 1874. In that year she had a work accepted at the Salon and in 1877 made the acquaintance of Degas, with whom she was to be on close terms throughout his life. His art and ideas had a considerable influence on her own work; he introduced her to the Impressionists and she participated in the exhibitions of 1879, 1880, 1881 and 1886, refusing to do so in 1882 when Degas did not.
She was a great practical support to the movement as a whole, both by providing direct financial help and by promoting the works of Impressionists in the USA, largely through her brother Alexander. By persuading him to buy works by Manet, Monet, Morisot, Renoir, Degas and Pissarro, she made him the first important collector of such works in the US. She also advised and encouraged her friends the Havemeyers to build up their important collection of works by Impressionists and other contemporary French artists.
Her own works, on the occasions when they were shown in various mixed exhibitions in the US, were very favorably received by the critics and contributed not a little to the acceptance of Impressionism there. Despite her admiration for Degas, she was no slavish imitator of his style, retaining her own very personal idiom throughout her career. From him, and other Impressionists, she acquired an interest in the rehabilitation of the pictorial qualities of everyday life, inclining towards the domestic and the intimate rather than the social and the urban (Lady at the Teatable, 1885), with a special emphasis on the mother and child theme in the 1890s (The Bath, 1891). She also derived from Degas and others a sense of immediate observation, with an emphasis on gestural significance. Her earlier works were marked by a certain lyrical effulgence and gentle, golden lighting, but by the 1890s, largely as a consequence of the exhibition of Japanese prints held in Paris at the beginning of that decade, her draftsmanship became more emphatic, her colors clearer and more boldly defined. The exhibition also confirmed her predilection for printmaking techniques, and her work in this area must count amongst the most impressive of her generation. She lived in France all her life, though her love of her adopted countrymen did not increase with age, and her latter days were clouded with bitterness.
Mary Cassatt especially liked children, doting on her nieces and nephews and the offspring of friends. Naturalism and sensuality of a pure, elemental, and nonsexual sort are the hallmarks of Cassatt's portrayals of childhood during the 1880s and 1890s. An example is Children on the Shore, which she showed at the last Impressionist exhibition, in 1886. While this seaside subject is unique in her oeuvre, the close-up focus on the pair of toddlers and the firm draftsmanship are typical of the artist's style in the 1880s. This painting has the sharp outline that things and people have on the sand with the background of water and sky. The short arms and the dollish faces let you guess the flesh under a thick laver of suntan. The sensuousness of Cassatt's rendering of youngsters in Children in a Garden, makes them like flowers in the heat.
The physicality in Cassatt's work seems to have made some uncomfortable. Eloquently capturing a moment between rest and play, Portrait of a Little Girl portrays the daughter of friends of Degas in an interior with Cassatt's dog. Cassatt submitted the painting to the US section of the 1878 Paris Exposition universelle: its rejection enraged her. The jury could have been affronted by the girl's insouciant sprawl: she has flopped into the chair, looking hot, disheveled, exhausted, even bored. With her clothing pushed up to reveal her legs and petticoat and her left arm lifted and bent around her head, the young model can be perceived as totally unconscious and innocent or as coquettish and sexually precocious. It has been argued that the girl's pose derives from the traditional, erotic odalisque and thus was intended to foreshadow her adult sexuality. But in fact it seems that the attraction of this image lies in its naturalism. Children are less self-conscious than adults; they continually, rearrange their clothes and limbs and are often unaware of social conventions. Thus the work can be seen to reflect the then-current view of children as pure and unfettered beings. The jury may have objected to the artist's radical handling of the background. As in her domestic interiors of the time, she reduced spatial depth by choosing a sharp, high angle for the floor, crowding the chairs together, and abruptly cropping the windows. Again, as in Children on Shore, the viewpoint from which the subject is observed is low and empathetic the same level from which a child would see.
Cassatt had completely absorbed from her Impressionist colleagues Caillebotte, Degas, and Renoir, as well as her study of Japanese prints, the modern idea that the background of a painting might be as significant as the foreground. She understood that establishing a tension between the two would capture the immediacy of vision, as well as mimic or falsify by turns, the focal shifts of human sight and perception. Thus the space and the objects in Portrait of a Little Girl that surround the figure seem to be in motion; the floor lifts up, and the chairs appear to have slid into various, almost accidental positions, not unlike that of the young girl. These changing elements affect our perception of the painting's psychological subtext: in contrast to one made clear by direct, outward gaze, that of Cassatt's subject is more complicated and elusive; the little girl's sideways glance, which avoids ours, makes her independent of us. She is in a world of her own, one that adults could fully understand only by recapturing their childhood personae.
The most famous female Impressionist painter, Mary Cassatt, was born in Allegheny, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Cassatt family was affluent and cultured: Mary's father was a stockbroker, while her mother, who came from an old established Pennsylvania family, was an accomplished woman who spoke French and read widely, and provided Mary with an excellent example to follow. It is, perhaps, no accident that so many of the women in Mary Cassatt's paintings are engaged in simple, self-contained tasks like reading or sewing, since these were the everyday activities of the Cassatt household.
As a child, Mary traveled widely in Europe, since the family moved from Paris to Heidelberg and Darmstadt in search of a specialist who could help cure her brother Robbie's diseased knee joint, and to find the superior schooling that her brother Alexander needed for his future engineering career. This travel enabled Mary to learn both French and German while she was still young - linguistic skills that were prove immensely useful in later life.
In 1861, when she was sixteen, Mary Cassatt decided to study art seriously and enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, apparently against the wishes of her father, who thought it inadvisable that she should extend herself beyond the domestic role for which she was intended. She remained there for four years before moving back to Europe with her mother for a two-year stay before the breakout of the Franco-Prussian war. Henceforth, Mary was to spend most of her life in exile from her native country, reflecting a feeling among some women of her generation that Europe offered an escape from what they saw as the oppressive, patriarchal attitudes of the US. She was later to say; "After all, give me France. Women do not have to fight for recognition here if they do serious work. I suppose it is Mrs. Potter Palmer's French blood which gives her organizing powers and determination that women should be someone and not something."
her return to Europe in 1872, Mary Cassatt went to Parma in Italy where
she stayed for several months studying the paintings of the Italian Masters
Correggio and Parmagianino, and where she may have also studied graphic
art with Carlo Raimondi. It says a great deal about the determination of
the young artist that she was prepared to brave a somewhat lonely and isolated
existence in order to achieve her aim. It is also significant that she should
have felt a need to turn to these two particular painters, as they were
both masters of the Madonna-and-child theme, and subject paintings of women
and children were to prove so critical to her own work. From Parma, the
artist went to Madrid, where she spent some time absorbing the lessons of
Velazquez in the Prado, and where she painted the Spanish-influenced Torero
and A Young Girl. From Madrid, Mary went to Antwerp where
she studied the art of Rubens for a time.
Cassatt knew and befriended Edouard Manet. The two artists lived near each other, had mutual friends, and met from time to time. Although she and Manet did not seem to have the same close relationship that she had with Edgar Degas, Cassatt knew him well, and in 1880 even spent the summer with her family at Marly-le-Roi near Manet's villa. She was also highly influenced by his art, and many of her early works show Manet's broad touch and his strong tonal contrasts. She was responsible for sending many of his paintings to the US.
The early years in Paris were a particularly happy time for Mary Cassatt, and this gaiety is reflected in the subject matter she chose for her paintings. She depicted young girls setting in the loge at the opera, women taking tea, knitting and reading. Many of her models were drawn from her close family and friends, such as her mother and her sister Lydia, who had moved to Paris to live with her in 1877. On the whole, Cassatt preferred to paint peasant women who took care of their own children, rather than the more affluent mothers who delegated the task to nannies or nursemaids.
In 1891, Mary Cassatt had her first one-woman show at the gallery of Durand-Ruel. The year after, she was invited by Mrs. Potter Palmer to paint the south tympanum in the Women's Building at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago - a commission she gladly accepted, as she had always been a champion of the feminist cause. Her chosen theme was "Modern Woman", which she illustrated with a three-part composition. In the center she showed "Young Women Plucking the Fruits of Knowledge and Science", on the left-hand panel she showed "Young Girls Pursuing Fame", and on the right she depicted the arts of music and dancing. The colors are cheerful, since it was felt that, as the painting was done for a national fete, the mood should be jubilant.
The winter of 1893-1894 found Mary Cassatt in Antibes, recovering from the effort of producing her color prints and the mural for Chicago. It was there she began to paint one of her largest canvases, The Boating Party, which was highly influenced by Manet's painting In the Boat, which she had persuaded the Havemyers to buy for their collection. At the end of the following year, Mary had her second one-woman show at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris, and she bought the Chateau de Beaufresne at Mesnil-Theribus on the Oise, 43 km from Paris, which was to be her summer home for the rest of her life.
It was not until 1898 that Mary Cassatt, for the first time since she had settled in Paris in 1874, visited the US, in order to see her family and friends. She had delayed her return home until this point partly because she was afraid of sea travel, and also because her ailing parents had needed her to stay with them in Paris. But after her mother died in 1898, there were no close family links to keep her in Europe, and she was free to visit her brothers Gardner and Alexander and their families in Philadelphia and Boston. While in the US, Mary Cassatt decided to concentrate on pastels alone, as they were more portable than oils, and therefore more suitable for the journey home. Most of the subjects she painted there were women and children. Her attention was rather diverted from her own work when she returned to Europe; she made an extended visit to Italy with the Havemyers to advise on the purchase of paintings.
The artist continued to produce a large number of paintings and pastels during the early years of the century, and she managed to preserve her good health and strength until she was in her sixties. However, after a tragic trip to Egypt in 1912 during which her brother Gardner died, she found herself depressed, ill, and unable to work for almost two years. Her eyesight was gradually failing due to inoperable cataracts and because of this, the colors in her pastels became more and more strident and less subtle, although the artist considered them to be her best works. After a last outburst of work in 1913, Mary Cassatt stopped producing pictures almost entirely, and retired to the South of France during the first world war. She lived on in seclusion and virtual blindness, unable to work, until her death in at the Chateau de Beaufresne.
Mary Stevenson Cassatt was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, US, into a well-to-do family. Her father, Robert Cassatt, was a successful stockbroker and financier. Her mother, Katherine Kelso Johnston, came from a banking family, which had provided her with a good education. The Cassatt family was of French Huguenot origin; they escaped persecutions and came to New York in 1662.
During the childhood of the future artist, the family traveled in Europe, lived in France and Germany (1851-1855). During her 4-year stay in Europe Mary became fluent in French and German. Returning to Pennsylvania in 1855, the Cassatt family settled in Philadelphia. At the age of 15 Mary decided to become an artist and enrolled in 1861 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She took art classes for 4 years (1861-1865) and continued to pursue studies on her own. Soon she got frustrated with the education in the US. She felt she needed to study in Europe, her choice was Paris. Her mother supported her daughter’s desire. Since the Ecole des Beaux-Arts did not admit women, she (in 1866) studied for a short period in the studio of Charles Chaplin, then took private lessons from Jean-Léon Gérôme. In addition, Cassatt registered among the copyists at the Louvre. In 1868 her painting was exhibited for the 1st time in the Salon. The most important influence on Cassatt in the years before 1875 was exercised by Edouard Manet, although he did not accept students, she saw his works and they were much discussed both by painters and art critics.
The Franco-Prussian war (1870) made Cassatt return to the US for the next year and a half. The US atmosphere was so discouraging that she almost gave up painting. Late in 1871 she was on her way back to Europe, setting in Parma, where she copied works by Correggio for the archbishop of Pittsburgh. In Parma she spent 8 happy months.
In late September of 1872 she went to Spain studying first the paintings of Velázquez, Murillo, Titian, and Rubens at the Prado, then continuing on to Seville, where she began to paint her first major body of works based on Spanish subjects: Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla, Toreador and others.
After a brief return to Paris in April of 1873, she visited Holland and Belgium, and then traveled back south to Rome. In 1874 Cassatt finally decided to settle in Paris. Aided by her elder sister, Lydia, who joined Mary in Europe, she took an apartment and studio.
Lydia was not only the elder sister, but also the closest friend and model of Mary. There are eleven known works with Lydia, among them are The Cup of Tea, Lydia Working at a Tapestry Loom, Lydia Crocheting in the Garden at Marly, Woman and Child Driving. Lydia died at the end of 1882 of Bright’s disease, and it was a severe blow to Mary.
Cassatt became known as a portrait painter and was sought after by American visitors to France: Portrait of an Elderly Lady. As the sitters are often known, many of Cassatt’s works can be considered portraits: Mary Ellison Embroidering, Reading Le Figaro.. Her work differed from the stiff academic tradition of portrait painting as a mere likeness insofar as most of her subjects were either engaged in some kind of activity or caught in a casual pose.
In 1877 Cassatt met Degas, who advised her to join the Impressionists. “I accepted with joy. Now I could work with absolute independence without considering the opinion of a jury. I had already recognized who were my true masters. I admired Manet, Courbet, and Degas. I took leave of conventional art. I began to live.” A close friendship with Degas began, which lasted until Degas’ death in 1917. Degas and Renoir greatly influenced her style of painting. For a long time Cassatt was even thought of as a student of Degas. Though their relations were those of two friends, and the influence was mutual. Once, on seeing some of Mary’s work, Degas said that he would not have admitted that a woman could draw so well.
In 1877 her parents came to Paris to live with her permanently. Success of the IV Impressionist Exhibition, and Cassatt’s in particular, made her father believe at last that the daughter had chosen the right way in life. Between 1879 and 1882 The Independents, as the Impressionists used to call themselves, held their group exhibitions annually, thus providing Cassatt with the opportunity to show her work. In the US she was exhibiting regularly with the Society of American Artists in New York.
The two decades around the turn of the century proved to be a highly successful and productive period for Cassatt. She focused almost exclusively on the depiction of mothers and children, these works today are her best-known and most popular, e.g. The Child's Caress., The Bath. Almost all of Cassatt’s mother and child scenes do not depict actual mothers with their own children, since the artist preferred to select his models and match the appropriate physical types in order to achieve the desired results. From 1890 she also produced prints, e.g. The Letter, In the Omnibus, etc. Cassatt’s father died in 1891, and the mother in 1895.
In 1898 Mary returned to the US for the 1st time in over 25 years, visiting relatives, friends and collectors. In 1901 she visited Italy and Spain, in 1908 made the last trip to the USA. In 1910-12 she traveled extensively in Europe and in the Middle East. In 1904 she was accepted into the Legion of Honour and in 1910 became a member of the National Academy of Design in New York.
Cassatt’s last years were overshadowed with the loss of close people, relatives and friends. She suffered from many diseases, like diabetes and had cataracts on both eyes, which eventually reduced her to near blindness. She lived in solitude at the Château de Beaufresne, accompanied only by her longtime housekeeper, Mathilde Valet, or in the south of France. At the outbreak of WWI Cassatt had to give up painting entirely.
Cassatt’s name is less familiar than those of her fellow Impressionist painters Degas, Monet or Renoir. However, Mary Cassatt is highly original and interesting painter and her talent does not yield to those with well-known names.
Self-Portrait (1878, 60x45cm; 1100x757pix, 180 kb)
Self-Portrait (1880; 956x679pix, 115kb)
— Children Playing with a Cat (1908, 84x104cm; _ ZOOMable)
— The Caress (1902, 83x69cm; _ ZOOMable to 2017x1566pix, 542kb)
— Jules Being Dried by His Mother (190093x73cm; _ ZOOMable to 2652x2025pix)
— Girl Arranging Her Hair (1886, 75x62cm; _ ZOOMable to 2511x2027pix, 1024kb)
— Lydia Seated at an Embroidery Frame (1881; 65x93cm; _ ZOOM to 1403x2067pix, 668kb, as above)
— Hélène de Septeuil (1889, 64x41cm; _ ZOOMable) holding her young son.
— Lady at the Tea Table (1883, 86x74cm; _ ZOOMable)
— Maternal Kiss (1896, 56x46cm; _ ZOOM to 2614x2064pix, 1138kb, as above)
— Elsie in a Blue Chair (1880, 89x64cm; _ ZOOMable)
— Moise Dreyfus (1879, 81x65cm; _ ZOOMable)
— At the Window (1889, 30x25cm; _ ZOOMable to 2000x1557pix, 824kb)
Sara Holding a Cat (1908, 41x33cm)
— At the Français, a Sketch aka At the Opera (1878; 600x484pix _ ZOOM to 1045x805pix, 148kb _ ZOOM+ to 1400x1129pix)
— Study of a Woman With a Fan (Miss Mary Ellison) (1880; 600x456pix _ ZOOM to 1400x1064pix)
— A Little Girl (1878; 600x888pix _ ZOOM to 1400x2072pix) _ sprawled on a blue stuffed armchair, with a little dog lying on a similar armchair, and a matching armchair and sofa in the background.
— Lady Knitting (1882; 600x428pix _ ZOOM to 1400x999pix)
— Drinking Tea (1880; 881x1239pix, 1920kb _ ZOOM to 1489x2118pix, 740kb)
— Two Young Ladies in a Loge (1882; 600x476pix _ ZOOM to 1400x1111pix)
— Lady at the Tea Table (1885; 600x500pix _ ZOOM to 1400x1167pix)
— The Boating Party (1894; 600x784pix _ ZOOM to 1400x1829pix)
— After the Bath (1904; 600x940pix _ ZOOM to 1400x2193pix)
— The Crochet Lesson (1913; 946x802pix, 172kb)
— Toreador (1873; 1103x857pix, 195 kb)
— Mrs. Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren (1880; 596x1111pix, 166kb)
— Woman and Child Driving (1881; 600x872pix, 231kb _ ZOOM to 780x1123pix, 197kb _ ZOOM+ to 1400x2035pix) _ Actually only the woman is driving the 1-HP vehicle through a park, while the bored 4-year-old (her grand-daughter?) is just sitting next to her; and, in the backward-facing back seat, there is a young man wearing a top hat.
— Robert and His Sailboat (1882; 1040x792pix, 199kb)
— Master Robert Kelso Cassatt (1882; 884x1111pix, 277kb) — The fingers of his right hand seem deformed.
— 277 images at the Athenaeum