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Mary Stevenson Cassatt

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Mary Stevenson Cassatt
Mother-child portrait and genre painting, etching
American, (1844–1926)
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) is one of the most recognized women in American art. Born near Pittsburgh, she spent most of her life as an expatriate in Paris where she associated with the French impressionists, especially Edgar Degas. She was made a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor in 1904, a great honor for an American, and was one of the first women to serve as a juror for the prestigious Carnegie Internationals.
This tondo painting of a mother and her two children portrays the maternal theme favored by the artist. Beginning in the 1880s, Cassatt explored the subject of mother and child, using various compositions and media and employing her sister and nieces as models. The tondo shape of the painting encircles the figures and lends a heightened sense of intimacy to the scene, as if the viewer were peering through a keyhole at the group. Despite the viewer's inability to see the mother's expression, the proximity of the figures to one another, as well as the softness of the brush strokes, creates a feeling of domestic serenity.
This particular image was originally produced as part of a mural competition for the State Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Frustrated with the state of government and the amount of graft involved, Cassatt withdrew her work from the competition


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