American Painter in Paris Critical Essays

Ellen Wilson


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In American Painter in Paris, Wilson has written in an interesting and convincing manner that makes her enthusiasm for the world of art, as well as for the life of Mary Cassatt, of great appeal to the young adult audience. Because the author obviously enjoys her subject, she has researched it thoroughly; the bibliography contains approximately sixty-five sources. The reader has a sense of deep intimacy with the subject but is not weighted down by footnotes and quotations. Among her many sources of information, Wilson gathered personal letters from the family and friends of Cassatt and visited those who had kept her diaries or memoirs. The authenticity of Wilson’s research informs her prose.

Wilson chooses appropriate details to give an in-depth picture of Cassatt’s personality. At her sixteenth birthday party, Cassatt prepared her family for her desire to leave them and live in Paris to pursue her artistic career. Even though her father was determined that his daughter would not leave home, her persistence finally won out, and six years later he helped her to find a residence in Paris. This same persistence became obvious again when the Salon, the most prestigious group of art critics, ignored her work because she chose to develop her own style.

Another dimension to Cassatt’s art career was her choice of subjects. When her career was established in Paris, her family chose to leave their Pennsylvania home to live in France with her. At that time, her sister Lydia and other family members became the subjects of many of her paintings. Unfortunately, her mother’s illness...

(The entire section is 657 words.)