Mary Cassat – Mothers and children

USA * 1845-1926


Born on 22 May 1845 in Allegheny City, near Pittsburgh (PA), USA, Mary Cassat rates as one of the most important 19th century US artists. She was raised in a comfortable upper-middle-class family and her father was a successful stockbroker while her mother was part of a prosperous banking family. From 1851-55 the family lived in France and Germany, enabling Mary to get a flavour of European arts and culture.

In 1860 she began two years of study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and five years later, she asked her parents to allow her to continue her artistic training abroad. She moved to Europe to study the works of the great masters of The Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France before settling in Paris, France, in 1874. While she exhibited in the Salon in 1872 and subsequent years, her work was rejected in 1877 and she then devoted herself to creating impressionist works. She exhibited with the Impressionists as the only US artist and her talent was recognised by the likes of Edgar Degas.

Mary Cassat - Sleeping baby 1910

“The Sleeping Baby” – Mary Cassat (1910)

In 1891 there was a shift in her subject matter as she painted increasingly works of mothers and their children, for which she was ultimately known.

In terms of technique, her work combined the light colours and loose brushwork of Impressionism with compositions influenced by European Old Masters as well as Japanese art. Her love of Japanese art was particularly noticeable in paintings such as “The Child’s Bath” (1893).

Mary Cassat - The child's bath - 1893

“The Child’s Bath” – Mary Cassat (1893)

In addition to her artistry as a painter, Mary Cassat was also skilled in colourful wood cuts such as “Morning routine” (1886). Her versatility helped her to establish professional success at a time when very few women were recognised as serious artists.

However, her career as a visual artist came to an end in 1914 due to an eye disease. She died on 14 June 1926 in Mesnil-Théribus, France.