Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was an American painter and printmaker. She was born in Pennsylvania, and began studying painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts at an early age. She lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro, and later exhibited among the Impressionists.
Degas had considerable influence on Cassatt. Both were highly experimental in their use of materials, trying distemper and metallic paints in many works. She became extremely proficient in the use of pastels, eventually creating many of her most important works in this medium. Degas also introduced her to etching, of which he was a recognized master. The two worked side-by-side for a while, and her draftsmanship gained considerable strength under his tutelage. He depicted her in a series of etchings recording their trips to the Louvre
Cassatt's popular reputation is based on an extensive series of rigorously drawn, tenderly observed, yet largely unsentimental paintings and prints on the theme of the mother and child. Some of these works depict her own relatives, friends, or clients, although in her later years she generally used professional models in compositions that are often reminiscent of Italian Renaissance depictions of the Madonna and Child. After 1900, she concentrated almost exclusively on mother-and-child subjects.
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