Mary Cassatt, an American, joined the French Impressionists’ exhibitions just 5 years after their very first exhibition in 1874. Edgar Degas had seen some of her paintings at the annual Paris art show and invited Mary to join the Impressionists. The only American and one of only three women, Mary continued exhibiting with the group until 1886.
The post includes:
- A short bio of Mary Cassatt
- Information about her paintings
- Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand her work
- A kid-friendly devotion based on the paintings
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was born near Pittsburg, but grew up in Philadelphia. When Mary was still a child, her family lived in Europe for several years searching for a cure for Mary’s brother, Robbie, who had bone cancer. When he died, they returned to America.
Even as a child, Mary wanted to become an artist, and despite her father’s objections, entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts when she was just 15. Women students had separate classes from men, and Mary often felt frustrated by this and the lack of great art to study in American museums.
So, like many American artists, when the Civil War ended, Mary traveled to Europe to study art. She eventually settled in Paris. As a woman, Mary couldn’t attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but she studied privately with Ecole masters and spent lots of time copying masterpieces at the Louvre.
When she joined the Impressionists, Cassatt’s art took on many similarities to their work.
Most Impressionists used their families as models and often painted them walking in a field with a parasol, sitting in a garden, or at a luncheon at one of the popular weekend boating resorts along the Seine. But the men could also go to cafes and travel around Paris to capture everyday life.
The three women, Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, and Marie Bracquemond, couldn’t do these things unaccompanied. Instead they painted the domestic life of women and children, also using family members as models. Mary Cassatt is known and loved today for her beautiful paintings, pastels, and prints of mothers and children.
Cassatt lived the rest of her life in France, but never forgot the need of American museums for great art. She advised many wealthy Americans on what paintings to buy for themselves—all with the stipulation they would eventually give their collections to museums. Today, partly through Mary’s efforts, we can see large numbers of Impressionist and other great art at the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York, the Chicago Institute of Art, and many smaller museums around the country. American museums also have many works by Cassatt, herself.
Cassatt’s paintings often show figures up close, and once she joined the Impressionists, she began to use brighter colors, lots of light, and shadows full of color. Despite that influence, Mary continued to carefully outline her figures, not dissolving these as some Impressionists did.
Besides the light-filled palette, you see the Impressionist influence in lack of fine detail in women’s dresses and people and flowers in backgrounds.
Quite often Mary’s paintings of women and children include a dog called a Brussels Griffon. Mary fell in love with these little dogs and owned several during her life. These little dogs were first used to hunt down rats and mice in stables, but also gradually became pets. People found them to be sensitive and lovable, but they do need lots of exercise and can be somewhat stubborn to train.
Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore Mary’s Paintings
- Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary.
- These paintings by Mary Cassatt are great for telling stories. Ask children what they think is happening in each painting, and how the people are feeling, or what they’re talking about.
- Ask children to say or list some of the traits that make dogs good pets for many people, such as friendly, loyal, fun to play with, devoted, etc.
- If they don’t come up with faithfulness, help them focus on that trait
- Look up some synonyms for faithfulness.
- Briefly tell one or two stories about faithful dogs from history or literature, such as Lassie Come Home or The Incredible Journey, in which dogs brave many dangers to return to their beloved families.
- There are many such stories about the faithfulness of dogs, and for that reason, they’re often used in paintings to symbolize faithfulness.
- Though dogs are known and loved for their faithfulness, we know God is even more faithful to love us, care for us, and keep His promises.
- Together read some of these verses and talk about all the ways the Lord is our faithful God:
- Deuteronomy 7:9
- Deuteronomy 32:4
- Psalm 25:10
- Psalm 33:4
- Psalm 57:10
- Psalm 89:14
- Psalm 91:4
- Psalm 145:13-20
- Psalm 146:6-10
- 1 Corinthians 10:13
- 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
- Hebrews 10:23
- 1 Peter 4:19
- 1 John 1:9
Have children write a prayer using words from some of these verses and decorate it to put on the fridge or send to a loved one.
Together watch and enjoy Lassie Come Home, The Incredible Journey, or another story about a faithful dog!
Before You Go:
3 Things you might like to do:
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To read “Red, Yellow, and Blue, Let Art Refresh Your Children and You,” my post on the parenting blog, In the Quiver, follow this link. You’ll find more ideas about how art can help your child’s overall development and some fun activities to do togetherhttps://inthequiver.com/
Molly, my faithful little artsy corgi and I hope you enjoyed learning about Mary Cassatt and most of all about the faithfulness of our God!! Please come back next time for an art activity related to Mary Cassatt’s work.