ART 4 2-DAY 22 May v.9.40
Born on 22 May 1733: Hubert
Marius Robert, Parisian Rococo
painter who died on 15 April 1808.
French landscape painter sometimes called "Robert des Ruines" because of his many romantic representations of Roman ruins set in idealized surroundings. Robert went to Rome (1754), was elected to the French Academy there, and became a friend and associate of the renowned etcher of architectural subjects Giambattista Piranesi. In 1759 he joined Abbé de Sainte-Non and the French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard in travels through southern Italy and Sicily. Each man influenced the other's style but not the other's choice of subjects. At the Villa d'Este, Tivoli, Robert produced a quantity of red chalk drawings of ancient buildings in ruined parks, animated with small figures.
Returning to Paris (1765), Robert became a member of the French Royal Academy in 1766. A gifted decorative artist, he based his paintings on his Italian drawings, and his popularity was enhanced by exhibitions at the Salons from 1767 on. In addition to Italian landscapes, he painted scenes of Ermenonville, Marly-le-Roi, and Versailles, near Paris, and of the south of France, with its ruined Roman monuments. He also directed the design of the English garden at Versailles.
Under Louis XVI he became Keeper of the King's Pictures and one of the first curators of the Louvre. Although imprisoned and sentenced to death during the French Revolution, he continued to work. (He owed his life to another person with the same name being mistakenly guillotined in his stead.) He collaborated with Fragonard on a commission for the Musée Français in the Louvre during the 1790s, but at the time of his death he was forgotten.
— The Bastille in the First Days of its Demolition (1789; 600x920pix _ ZOOM to 1400x2147pix) _ What? Was he too impatient to wait for it to look like some decent ruins? And had he not yet developed the imagination he would demonstrate seven years later when painting the non-existent ruins of the perfectly sound Louvre?
— Arrangement Suggestion for the Grande Gallerie at the Louvre (1796; 600x764pix _ ZOOM to 1400x1783pix)
— Imaginary View of the Grande Gallerie in Ruins (1796; 600x736pix _ ZOOM to 1400x1717pix) _ What he predicts will happen if the Revolutionary government doesn't adopt his suggestion for arrangement and, above all, does not increase his budget? Is that why they decided to guillotine him (or at least some poor slob with the same name... as long as heads roll, why would the Revolution care whose?) ?
Avenue in a Park (1799, 59x39cm) _ This painting is a good example of Hubert Robert's refined art. Robert, a French painter of the second half of the 18th century, is known mainly for his landscapes decorated with imaginary architecture and little figures, in which happiness, reality and fiction, archaeological taste and sense of decoration are all mingled. Avenue in a Park is a late work in the painter's career, testifying to the permanence of his style and to his taste for a nature that has been disciplined and made decorative by man. The subject matter still reflects the "douceur de vivre" so dear to the 18th century. An avenue lined with trees with their tops intertwined leads the spectator towards the bottom of the garden. In the center, a young girl is playing on a swing, activated by two companions. A group of people to the right are looking on. The whole painting bathes in a soft harmony of browns, grays and greens against a bluish sky background. The red coat of the man leaning against the pedestal catches the viewer's eye.
The antique statues reposing satyr and faun playing a flute flanking the tree-lined opening in the foreground had been earlier captured by Robert in a red chalk drawing of various Greco-Roman sculptures conserved in the Capitol. The artist has repeated them here the other way round. The young musician in turn had appeared in several of Robert's paintings. Arriving in Rome in 1754, Robert stayed there for over 10 years. It is there that he met the Abbé de Saint-Non, Giovanni Battista Piranesi and in particular Gian Paolo Panini, who was to have a lasting influence on him. He also became friends with Fragonard. The little painting in Brussels confirms the close links between the art of "Robert of the Ruins" and Fragonard's poetic universe. The avenue of trees also refers to the many parks and gardens in Italy and the Ile-de-France which were to nourish his imagination throughout his long and successful career. Robert exhibited at every salon from 1767 to 1798, becoming "designer of the King's gardens" in 1777 and much later, after the revolutionary tumult, producing plans for converting the Grande Galerie of the Louvre into a museum.
Le Pont du Gard (1787, 242x242cm) _ Hubert Robert, who learned his trade during a long journey through Italy, was a very producti8ve artist. He took over from Pannini the theme of ruins, but in his hands it became less dry and more picturesque.
Washerwomen below a Bridge - (24x33cm) _ Hubert Robert in his large-scale decorative works was often conventional, but in his works on a small-scale he was a very fine painter, with a sensitive and spontaneous technique.
Imaginary View of the Grande Galerie in the Louvre in Ruins (1796, 114x146cm) _ French painting in the second half of the 18th century displays the overlapping or intermingling of pre-Romantic and Neoclassical pictorial ideas, and nowhere is this clearer than in the work of the 'painter of ruins', Hubert Robert. He obtained his ideas from Italy, where he admired the paintings of ruins by Giovanni Paolo Pannini, and witnessed the first excavations in Pompeii. Praised by Diderot, he was immediately consulted when antique pieces were to be placed in the park of Versailles. But his great work was the realization of the Louvre Museum. A comparison of two of his paintings, the first showing a ruined barrel-vault hall, and the second the Grande Galerie in the Louvre, immediately reveals the source of the idea for the top lighting and the "antique effect" that the newly designed gallery is open to the sky. The sublimity of antique ruins was to be transferred to the real building, and this in turn was to be a treasure chest of art and a worthy successor to its antique models.
Design for the Grande Galerie in the Louvre (1796, 112x143cm) _ Hubert Robert's great work was the realization of the Louvre Museum. A comparison of two of his paintings, the first showing a ruined barrel-vault hall, and the second the Grande Galerie in the Louvre, immediately reveals the source of the idea for the top lighting and the "antique effect" that the newly designed gallery is open to the sky. The sublimity of antique ruins was to be transferred to the real building, and this in turn was to be a treasure chest of art and a worthy successor to its antique models.
The Draftsman of the Borghese Vase (1775, 36x29cm) _ Rome's ancient ruins was a source of inspiration in the late 18th century, as this drawing shows. Distorting the proportions of the scene like Piranesi, Robert composed an architectural "capriccio" from a number of set pieces that were freely designed and rendered in the manner of veduta. The artist of the title is seen sketching the gigantic Borghese Vase on a square above the Forum, which had a view to the Coliseum - a building whose vertical dimensions Robert extended by adding an additional series of arcades. The Borghese Vase was actually never exhibited close to the Coliseum, but was situated in the Borghese gardens. The inscription illuminates an idealized relationship to Antiquity: Rome's former glory is still revealed in its ruins. With the brownish red-chalk crayon typical of the late 18th century, Robert achieved subtly drawn as well as painterly effects. The fragile, delicate contours and the schematic manner in which the foliage of trees is depicted recall the Rococo.
Died on 22 May 1902: Lilly
Martin Spencer, US painter born in England on 26 November 1822.
— At the age of eight, Lilly Martin and her family emigrated to the US, and after three years in New York they moved to Marietta, Ohio. In 1841 her father took her to Cincinnati, where she exhibited and received help from artists such as the animal painter James Henry Beard [1812–1893]. However, she refused the offer of the city’s most important art patron, Nicholas Longworth, to assist in her art studies in Boston and Europe. Instead she stayed in Cincinnati and married an Englishman, Benjamin Spencer, by whom she had thirteen children, seven living to maturity. In 1848 they moved to New York to take advantage of the greater professional opportunities.
The Artist and Her Family at a Fourth of July Picnic (1864, 126x160cm)
We Both Must Fade (Mrs Fithian) (1869, 183x136cm)
— Young Husband, First Marketing (1854, 74x63cm)
War Spirit at Home (1866) _ The mother reads a newspaper announcing Grant's 04 July 1863 victory at Vicksburg, a turning point in the Civil War, after a siege started on 19 May 1863. This painting, rather than being a celebration of the Union victory, is a scathing denunciation of war and perhaps a commentary on male values. The war has brought chaos into the home, now manned by women. The cross in the folds of the newspaper probably reflects both the mother's suffering and the deaths caused by the war. Spencer is one of the first artists to deal with women's issues. Her mother was a Fourierist, a group that advocated a degree of communal living so that such services as day care of young children would be available to give mothers free time.
— Contrast First at Vicksburg, another artist's painting of the first Union troops to reach the top of the Confederate defenses, on 19 May 1863: [click on image >]
Born on 22 May 1848: Friedrich
Hermann Karl “Fritz” von Uhde, German
painter who died on 25 February 1911.
— He came from a family of civil servants with artistic interests. In 1866 he briefly attended the Hochschule der Bildende Künste in Dresden, but he was bored by the teaching and in 1867 he joined the army. In 1877, despite being an officer, he took leave of absence, having decided after all to be an artist. He was determined to succeed rapidly in order to justify his late start and almost to the end of his life, therefore, his work revealed a tension between innovation and conformity.
— After a disappointing year of studies at the Academy in Dresden, Uhde joined the Guards regiment in 1867; in 1868 he was promoted to Lieutenant. After making the acquaintance of Hans Makart in Vienna in 1876 he left military service in order to dedicate himself to painting. After he was refused an apprenticeship with Carl Theodor von Piloty, Wilhelm Lindenschmit and Wilhelm von Diez he relocated to Paris in 1879 and worked in the studio of Mihály von Munkácsy. In 1880 he returned to Munich where he had close contact with Max Liebermann under whose influence he developed his naturalistic-impressionistic style. In 1892 he belonged to the group of founders of the Munich Secession. Along with Liebermann, Lovis Corinth and Max Slevogt, Uhde is considered to be one of the most important German Impressionists. With his religious paintings he created realistic redemptive scenes with present-day focus.
— Selbstbildnis (1904; 600x487pix
— Die drei Töchter des Künstlers im Garten (1885; 600x723pix) _ as grown-ups.
— Familienkonzert (1881; 600x827pix)
— Heideprinzeßchen (1889; 600x483pix)
— The Hard Path (1890, 117x127cm; 900x985pix, 126kb)
The Picture Book (1889, 61x51cm)
— Zwei Mädchen im Garten (1892; 145x117cm; 400x323pix, 21kb)
— Die Töchter des Künstlers (1896; 400x494pix, 24kb) _ as children (despite the date)
— Die Schulstunde (1899; 400x501pix, 37kb)
— Die Kinderstube (1889, 111x139cm; 400x489pix, 42kb)
on 22 May 1885: Victor-Marie Hugo, French
author born on 26 February 1802 who was also an artist.
HUGO THE AUTHOR AT HISTORY 4 “2”DAY
That titan of Romanticism who is now best known as the author of Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris, spewed out thousands of pages of plays, verse, novels, criticism and political, social and philosophical essays throughout his career. Few connoisseurs outside of France have realized that he also spewed out drawings about 4000 of them. Hugo the artist was as big a dynamo as Hugo the litterateur. He produced only works on paper of astonishing invention, spontaneously dashing them off in dark brown or black pen-and-ink wash, sometimes with touches of white and rarely with color. Most are small, and date from the 1850s and 1860s. Not surprisingly from an author, Hugo was expert at tapping into the unconscious. His otherworldly "Planet" drawings immediately bring to mind Odilon Redon.
Other works are Romantic outpourings that can seem more than a little weird on closer inspection. These dark and wind-whipped landscapes and/or brooding castles, cells, and escarpments occupy an ambiguous space made more unsettling by quick shifts in scale and undecipherable figures in the distance. Perhaps more shocking to the contemporary viewer are Hugo's proto-Surrealist use of automatic techniques and his proto-Abstract Expressionist experiments with tache and free brushwork. To keep his art fresh, he would cheerfully experiment with his children's stencils, ink blots, puddles and stains, lace impressions, "pliage" or folding (i.e. Rorschach blots), "grattage" or rubbing, using match sticks or his fingers instead of pen or brush, and even toss in coffee or soot to get the effects he wanted.
It seems that some drawings were made with his left hand or while not looking at the page. His Mushroom (1850), for example, has a sickly, poisonous cast from sparingly applied orange and green. This monumental fungus looms over a landscape like something that crawled out of a recently nuked field. Radical shifts of scale, a plethora of textural effects and various layerings of ink wash make this surreal vision endlessly haunting. The work is a technical tour de force, done with pen and brown ink-wash, black ink and crayon, white gouache, reserves and a stencil, watercolor, and by partly scraping and rubbing the sheet and by dabbing it with his fingers.
Lyrical abstractions, mystical nether worlds, and vaguely limned castles, landscapes, seascapes, all aswirl in tempests or eerie in moonlight, plus architectural motifs and even calling cards were churned out by Hugo with the same spontaneity of the pen and brush that he employed for his writings. They convey a turbulent search for meaning beyond the ordinary, as do Hugo's literary works. Hugo would turn from writing to art, whenever sentences eluded him, often using the end of his quill pen to start a drawing. His art kept helped to keep his words flowing, while his love of words fed his art.
Beside labeling and inscribing drawings, Hugo would at times incorporate words as formal elements. The latter is often the case in his ornately handmade calling cards, like a 1855 effort with the letters of his name forming a stand for a drawing of a landscape with castle, all this hovering in the center of a sheet saturated in brown ink with some ghostly white clouds. Many of his calling cards were created as gifts to visitors and friends while he was in political exile from France (1855-1870) and living in the English Channel Islands. His drawings, originally a sideline, became much more to Hugo shortly before his exile. He stopped writing to become more involved in politics and turned to drawing as his exclusive creative outlet during the period 1848-1851.
In 1853, he became interested in séances, or "table-turning." It wasn't long before Hugo quit, but not before he realized how effective those sessions were in setting free his unconscious. His artwork became much more experimental from that time forward. Hugo considered himself a true artist, keeping his most radical works to himself. Although he tried to hide his art from the public, he shared his drawings with family and friends. Some people did see at least a few of his works, and they garnered favorable comments from many artists (van Gogh liked them) and were fought over by his admirers. In his will, he left the many in his possession to the Bibliothèque Nationale. Hugo may have been right to fear that his art, if known by the public, would overwhelm his fame as a literary giant. While much of Hugo's output of words is all but unreadable today, it is hard to imagine his drawings would ever be considered dull.
— Le vieux pont de Lucerne (343x600pix, 49kb)
— Le Roi des Auxcriniers (42x29cm; 499x600pix, 49kb)
— Gavroche à onze ans (600x480pix, 49kb)
— Tête de profil à droite (1869, 23x15cm).
— Tête de profil, tournée vers la droite au recto et vers la gauche au verso (1869, 22x19cm)
— Paysage (1871, 25x35cm; 442x600pix, 40kb)
Octopus with the initials V. H. (1866)
Tache d'encre légèrement retouchée sur papier plié (1857)
Born on 22 May 1844: Mary
Stevenson Cassatt, expatriate US Impressionist
painter who died on 14 June 1926, 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, traveled 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 US 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 woman 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 to 1698x2094pix, 731kb)
— 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; _ ZOOMable to 1403x2067pix, 668kb)
— Hélène de Septeuil (1889, 64x41cm; _ ZOOMable) holding her young son.
— Lady at the Tea Table (1883, 86x74cm; _ ZOOMable)
— Maternal Kiss (1896, 56x46cm; _ ZOOMable to 2614x2064pix, 1138kb)
— 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.
— 271 images at the Athenaeum