Mary Cassatt

21.08.2015 |

Episode #10 of the course “Impressionist artists who changed the art world”


Mary Cassatt was an American woman who became known as one of the most famous Impressionist artists. Many of Cassatt’s works focus on femininity and the “new woman.” Cassatt was a highly-trained, educated professional, but she began painting after fighting at every step to become an artist. Outspoken on sexist politics, Cassatt was determined to earn an income, detested how Parisian cafés excluded women, and was frustrated with the nepotism associated with the Paris Salon.


10.1 The Mandolin PlayerThe Mandolin Player


10.2 Two Women Throwing Flowers During CarnivalTwo Women Throwing Flowers During Carnival


Born in 1844 outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mary Cassatt enjoyed a bourgeois upbringing, including travels around Europe and private tutors. Determined at a young age to become an artist, she enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy for the Fine Arts at age 15 in 1859, but it was not until returning to Europe and studying with several masters that one of her submissions, The Mandolin Player, was accepted at the Paris Salon in 1868. After returning to the US and enduring disinterest in her art, she earned a commission that sent her to Italy in 1871. Upon its completion, Paris was buzzing about her talent, and her work Two Women Throwing Flowers During Carnival was accepted to the Salon in 1872.

Having difficulty at the Salon and fascinated by the work of Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt joined the Impressionists, exhibiting with them in 1879. She began painting outdoors, continuing her depictions of domestic life. She intensified the colors of her palette, broadened her brushstroke technique, and experimented with the use of flat shapes against textures.


10.3 Children Playing On The BeachChildren Playing On The Beach


10.4 SummertimeSummertime


Cassat considered herself a figure painter and included mostly portraits and pictures of common people in banal activities in her portfolio. Cassatt frequently depicted mothers and children together, expressing intimacy and realism in the human form. Exhibiting with the Impressionists until 1886, Cassatt then detached herself from any artistic movement and experimented with a range of techniques, painting until her death in 1926.



“I think that if you shake the tree, you ought to be around when the fruit falls to pick it up.”

“I used to go and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art. It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it.”


All artworks

Mary Cassatt on WikiArt


Recommended book

“Mary Cassatt: A Life” by Nancy Mowll Mathews


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