Tag Archives: Edgar Degas

Mary Cassatt, American Impressionist Artist

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

The Artist

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.

Mary Cassatt, photo, 1913, public domain

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.

Reine Lefebre and Margot before a window by Mary Cassatt, public domain

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.

The Paintings

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.

Children on a Beach by Mary Cassatt, public domain

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.

Young Mother Sewing by Mary Cassatt, public domain

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.

Young Girl at a Window by Mary Cassatt, public domain

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.

 Devotion—God’s faithfulness

  1. 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.
  2. If they don’t come up with faithfulness, help them focus on that trait
  3. Look up some synonyms for faithfulness.
  4. 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.
  5. There are many such stories about the faithfulness of dogs, and for that reason, they’re often used in paintings to symbolize faithfulness.
  6. 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.
  7. 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:

Click the button to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide called, How to Make Your Art Museum Visit a Masterpiece for Your Whole Family!

If you like the new look for my blog, check out my all new and helpful website at:http://www.kathy-oneill.com/

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.

 

 

 

 

On the Trail of Monet’s Cathedrals and Haystacks: Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris

Continuing on our Monet Trail, one morning we took the metro to a more residential area in western Paris. Blue sky and warm sunshine met us as we came up the station steps. As we scuffled through leaves on the sidewalks and picked up smooth mahogany chestnuts, we enjoyed the arrival of fall.

 

The Musee Marmottan Monet is near the Bois de Boulogne, where Degas painted his horse racing scenes, and where other Impressionists sometimes painted people picnicking or strolling beside lakes.

The Picnic, Claude Monet

The Bois de Boulogne was once part of a forest where French kings and nobles hunted. By the time of the Impressionists, it had become a fashionable park that had been part of Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann’s drastic modernization of Paris in the 1850s. This included, not only parks, but broad new boulevards and modern apartment buildings that displaced thousands of poor Parisians to the city’s outskirts.

It’s the Paris we see in Impressionist paintings–Paris from the Louvre by Monet and Le Pont de L’Europe by Caillebotte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About this same time Jules Marmottan bought a former hunting lodge on the eastern side of the Bois de Boulogne, and he and his son turned it into a mansion with fine furniture and art. The son left the mansion and its art to the French Academy of Fine Arts, which opened it to the public in 1939.

Musee Marmottan Monet now houses the largest collection of Monet’s paintings in the world, many coming directly from the artist’s family, because Michel Monet, the artist’s second son, left the collection he inherited from his father to the Marmottan. Other works came from the doctor who was the personal physician of many of the Impressionists.

Although it doesn’t have the huge water lily canvases of Musee de L’Orangerie, it does have a number of large water lily paintings, as well works by other Impressionists.

And it hasImpression, Sunrise,

Impression, Sunrise, clause Monet, author photo

 the painting by Monet that gave the movement its name. In it Monet painted a sunrise over Le Havre harbor, showing how the water and the sun’s reflections on it sparkled and changed moment by moment. Sunrise was in the Impressionist’s first exhibit in 1874, and a magazine critic made fun of the paintings, especially Monet’s. The critic titled his article, “Exhibition of the Impressionists,” and the name stuck.

Seeing that painting at the Marmottan , and sitting surrounded by water lily paintings and wandering through the galleries to see other works was a delightful way to prepare us for our visit to Giverny, the inspiration for the water lily paintings that occupied Monet for the last 20 years of his life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From my last post:   Here are the answers to the differences between the subjects preferred by some Impressionists

  • Monet and Pisarro both favored landscapes, but when Monet included people, they were middle class people enjoying a walk or time in a garden. Pissarro painted country scenes, which often showed peasants at work in gardens and fields.
  • Renoir and Degas preferred to paint people, but Renoir liked to paint happy people dancing or  dining at cafes. His women and children are dressed in their best. Degas painted a more work-a-day world of laundresses and poorer girls, who became ballerinas to earn a living.
  • Morisot and Cassatt made moving and beautiful paintings of family members, especially of mothers and children. They may have wished to branch out more, (Cassatt once did paintings of bull fighters), but middle class women led a fairly restricted life at this time. They couldn’t roam Paris or the countryside on their own, as did the men.

Activities

  1. Read about Baron Haussmann and his modernization of Paris. Look at Gustave Caillebotte’s painting, Paris, a Rainy Day and paintings of Paris by other Impressionists to see some of those wide boulevards and iconic apartment buildings
  2. Look at some of Monet’s paintings that include water, one of his favorite subjects. It’s fun to see how he painted reflections in short dashes of color.

Molly enjoyed the cooler autumn weather, too.

Next up, the train trip to Giverny, going through Gare St. Lazare, the same train station that the Impressionists often used, and that Monet painted  a number of times.

Sign up to receive the next Kathythepicturelady post and read about the Impressionists’ love of trains.

All photos in this post were taken by the author.