Archive | March, 2021

Mary Cassatt: What Influences an Artist’s Work? (Part 5)

31 Mar
My watercolor rendition of “Poppies in a Field” Oil by Mary Cassatt 1874-1880.

It was only a matter of time before Mary Cassatt met Degas.  She was so inspired by his work that she encouraged other collectors from New York to purchase his art.  Her own art was now incorporating many of the Impressionist styles that lead to her rejection at the Salon.  She realized at that point that she was either going to embrace the new direction the Impressionism was taking her art or return to the old acceptable art she had been doing.  Breaking away from the Salon meant that her art would not be supported – it would be deemed unacceptable by the official art world of that time.  Of course we know which she chose.  And thank goodness, for what a great contribution she had for the art world!

In 1877 Degas visited her studio and officially invited her to join the Independents (as he called the Impressionists – since Degas detested the term “Impressionist” and never applied it to himself).

“I accepted with joy.  Finally I would be able to work with absolute independence and without concern for the eventual judgment of a jury!  I already knew who my masters were.  I admired Manet, Courbet and Degas.  I rejected conventional art.  I began to live…”  Cassett said.1

Cassatt and Degas had an interesting relationship which was fun to read about.  Degas had a reputation for being testy and cynical, easily offending other artists but Mary Cassatt felt she could look beneath the crusty behavior to see the sensitive human being underneath.  She felt he had uncompromising standards and he was honest no matter the cost.  They both had devoted their lives to art and recognized that in each other.

Have you ever considered what influences an artist and their art?  Have you thought about what the conventions of today’s art are or what is acceptable or unacceptable for art?  If you are an artist, how important is it for you to be accepted by a jury or to follow conventions?


  1.  “Un Peintre Des Enfants Et Des Meres, Mary Cassat” :  Segard, Achille, P. Ollendorff, 1913, p8
  2. “Cassatt” Jay Roudebush, Crown Trade Paperbacks, NY 1979

Mary Cassatt: What are the Conventions of Today? (Part 4)

10 Mar
My watercolor and pencil rendition of Mary Cassatt’s The Parrot, 1891.

While continuing to read about Mary Cassatt in “Cassatt” by Jay Roudebush, Crown Trade Paperbacks, NY, 1979  I learned there were a lot of changes going on in Paris with the Salon, Art Critics and the Impressionists.  Mary Cassatt went back to Paris in 1874, after her stay in Parma, Italy.  Her sister joined her sharing an apartment together.  The big “Salon de Refuses” had happened a decade ago but its influences were loosening the stranglehold the Salon had on art.  Artists were defying the Salon’s convention, showing their artistic freedom. 

Cassatt joined with Impressionist artists with her criticism of the Salon’s conventions and its politics.  They still dismissed female artists, treating their art with contempt unless she had a friend on the jury or flirted with the jurors.  Cassatt refused to play those games, voicing her distaste and moved away from the Salon conventions.

She was invited by Edgar Degas to show with the Impressionists in 1879 and she was thrilled.  She admired Degas and his art.  She was happy joining the Impressionists and their causes yet she was unable to attend their café meetings with them since she was a woman.  She instead met with the artists privately and at various exhibitions.

I like how Cassatt had her own principles and was so determined.  She managed to navigate challenges to move her art career forward without compromising her art or person.

We’ve all been rejected at one time or another, but how has that affected you?  Have you changed your direction to follow convention? Or have you joined with those “refused”?  How important is convention?

Bonus: Did you know that the Impressionists labeled themselves  “The Anonymous Cooperative Society of Artists, Sculptors, Engravers, Etc., Endowed with Variable Capital and Personnel”?