Mother and Daughter, Both Wearing Large Hats
Though a native of America from a wealthy Pennsylvania family, Mary Cassatt is considered a French Impressionist. Moving to Paris as a student (and spending the rest of her life there), she found success at the Paris Salon, but an introduction to artist Edgar Degas changed the direction of her own art and she became one of several women associated with the Impressionist movement. Cassatt's work was characterized by fine draftsmanship, a vivid palette, and a lack of sentimentality. Classic Impressionist works like this one caught a moment in time like a photographic snapshot, rather than the carefully posed works of conventional portraitists or history painters. Here you also see the characteristic impressionistic broken brushwork and the focus on color and light rather than narrative. Foliage is suggested rather than determined and negative space is essential to the composition, lessons she took from the Japanese prints that influenced so many of her own paintings and etchings. Cassatt became particularly famous for her paintings of mothers and children; the Impressionists insisted that ''you paint what you know'' and given the strictures of the Victorian era in which she lived, Cassatt spent most of her time in the company of other genteel women.