Mary Cassatt (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Using Impressionist techniques to create vivid, unsentimental portraits, Cassatt became one of America’s foremost painters at a time when the art world was regarded as an exclusively male domain.
Mary Stevenson Cassatt was the second daughter and fourth child of Robert and Katherine Johnson Cassatt. Robert Cassatt earned a comfortable income from stock trading and real estate. In 1849, the family moved to Philadelphia, but in 1851, they left for an extended stay in Europe.
The Cassatts first lived in Paris, but in 1853 they moved to Germany, where the eldest son, Alexander, could study engineering, and another son, Robert, could receive medical attention. In 1855, Robert died and was buried in Darmstadt; many years later, Mary Cassatt would have his body moved to be interred with others of the family at her French château.
The family returned to the United States in 1855, settling first in the Pennsylvania countryside and then back in Philadelphia, where Mary enrolled, in 1861, at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. During her four years at the academy she received a solid, if uninspiring, education in artistic fundamentals. Students began with drawings from casts of statues, progressed to live models, and completed their training by making oil copies of paintings. The faults of this process were that the instructors were competent but undistinguished, and the...
(The entire section is 2420 words.)
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