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

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