“If painting is no longer needed, it seems a pity that some of us are born into the world with such a passion for line and color.”
Mary Cassatt (1844–1926) was an American painter and printmaker. Born into a privileged family, she spent parts of her childhood visiting Europe. At age 16, Mary enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, but she was disappointed in the course offerings and the patronizing tone of the male instructors. She dropped out and moved to Paris, where she could study the works of old masters in the Louvre. On discovering the work of the artist, Edgar Degas, she said: “It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it.” She soon befriended Degas and began showing her work with the Impressionist Painters. Mary was the only American member of this circle of artists, and she became famous in Europe for her intimate portraits of mothers and children. She was not a mother herself, as she never married, preferring to forge a career for herself, but she was very close with her sister and brother and nieces and nephews, and often used them for models. She painted women as “subjects, not objects,” another idea that made her stand out in her time. When she returned to the States, though her own work was not well known, she Mary encouraged collectors and museums to buy the work of her friends and so introduced a taste for this style to America.