8th & F

10 Interesting Facts about Mary Stevenson Cassatt, the Artist of Mother’s Day!

Mother and Child with a Rose Scarf, Mary Cassatt, ca. 1908, oil on canvas

With Mother’s Day coming up, it is only fitting to explore the life of Mary Cassatt and her wonderful art, which often sweetly depicts the relationship between mother and child and the intimate moments of the lives of women in the late 1800s. How appropriate that Cassatt’s birthday is May 22, the month we celebrate mothers!

  • Mary Stevenson Cassatt was born May 22, 1844, in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania to a wealthy family that was able to afford an upbringing that included her preparation to become a proper wife and mother.
  • At the age of sixteen, Cassatt enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She became so discouraged by the patronizing attitudes of the male faculty and students that she withdrew and left for Europe to study the Old Masters on her own.
  • Cassatt’s father was against her living in Europe as a “bohemian” to pursue a career in art. He refused to fund anything related to her career as an artist, even after she returned to Pennsylvania because of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.
  • A commission from the archbishop of Pittsburgh allowed Cassatt to return to Europe and continue her career on her own. She established her reputation as an artist by being accepted to exhibit her work at the Paris Salon (then the greatest annual art event in the Western world) of 1872, 1873, and 1874.
  • Edgar Degas was inspirational to Cassatt, and the two soon became close friends.
  • From 1880 to 1882, Cassatt withdrew from the world of the artist to nurse her ailing mother and sister.
  • Cassatt influenced many wealthy American art collectors to purchase art with the intention of one day passing that art to American art museums.
  • After a trip to Egypt in 1910, Cassatt questioned her artistic ability. That, coupled with the death of her brother, caused her to cease painting for the next two years.
  • In 1915 Cassatt was robbed of her eyesight by diabetes and unable to paint for the rest of her life.
  • Mary Cassatt died on June 14, 1926, in Le Mesnil-Theribus, France.

Maternal Caress, Mary Cassatt, ca. 1890, aquatint

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