Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 114/365 Mary, Mary

Happy Birthday Dear Mary, Happy Birthday to you....

Mary Cassatt is my all-time favorite artist, or at least, one of the few on a short list. She was an American artist born in Pennsylvania in 1844, during a time not known for its encouragement to women who aspired to occupations other than wife and mother.

Oddly, this never-married, suffragette-loving, independant woman artist gained her greatest fame from painting mothers with children.

The top painting and the one below are two of my favorites. They always remind me of my daughter and all the things I loved about being her mother when she was a little girl. It's probably the little redheads that jog my memories.

Mary had an amazing life. As a student, she studied alongside Thomas Eakins, eventually moving to France (where they actually permitted women artists to paint from live nude models), where she sold enough of her paintings to pay for her art supplies. Her family was very well-to-do, but while her father would pay all her expenses, including traveling and living abroad, he refused to pay one cent towards her art supplies, feeling that being an artist was morally only slightly above being employed as a caberet dancer.

After deciding never to marry because she believed it would interfere with her art, she eventually formed a circle of artistic friends that included the likes of Degas, Renoir, Monet, and Cezanne (all Impressionists, who were the "pop art" of their time, and would never see during their lifetimes the respect their work would eventually receive).

Towards the end of her life, suffering from arthritis and almost blind, Mary Cassatt was still a vehemant supporter of women's rights, constantly fundraising and campaigning for the cause.

Nowadays, my little redhead is grown up, so this rare Cassatt landscape is a more accurate portrayal of us.

Mary Cassatt will always hold a special space in my heart, even if her contemporary French art critics said her colors were too bright and her figures too abstract, and that possibly the Impressionists were “afflicted with some hitherto unknown disease of the eye”.

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