Mary Cassatt’s art legacy is as a pioneer of philanthropy and progress. An American artist born in 1844 to a wealthy banking family in Pennsylvania, Cassatt and her mother lived a life of privilege while she was educated in France.
After returning to Philadelphia, Mary began painting and drawing as a way to express herself. Her mother supported her artistic pursuits and helped her secure commissions from wealthy patrons.
At this point in her life, Cassatt began to take on philanthropic work. Along with other women interested in art, she joined “The Woman’s Art Club of Philadelphia.” The club focused on the lives of women and promoted the artistry of women as well. They were interested in bridging the gap between their lives as privileged women to those of unprivileged women.
They would hold exhibitions with works by women artists who were not typically accepted by the art world.
Mary Cassatt art through impression
In 1878, Cassatt traveled to Paris, where she joined the Impressionist movement.
The Impressionists were French artists who focused on painting scenes from everyday life rather than classical scenes from mythology or religion. This was a new style of painting that caused much controversy at the time because it did not follow tradition.
Cassatt used this style to paint intimate scenes from everyday life, such as children at play or mothers with their children. This style of painting became known as “Intimist” or “Mary Cassatt” painting.
A legacy of artistic support
Throughout her career, she donated many paintings to public institutions such as libraries and museums. She would also donate paintings for family members who had collected art from her during her lifetime.
In 1923, she donated paintings from herself and Henri Matisse to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute Museum of Art. This donation included one of her most famous paintings titled “Mother Feeding Her Child” and Matisse’s “Woman with a Hat.” This donation was made in memory of her mother and included many of her mother’s favorite paintings.
Cassatt died in 1926 and left behind an extensive collection of art. Today, her work is exhibited in museums worldwide, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.