Arts Everyday Living: Celebrating Women’s History–Mary Cassatt, For Love of a Child



March is Women’s History Month and we will be featuring women artists through the centuries. A number of them are “famous,” but others have been overlooked and still being discovered. So enjoy our special online exhibition with fast facts highlights accompanying each image. Generally, the works of art will be presented chronologically.


Mary Cassatt, Sara in a Green Bonnet, ca. 1901, oil on canvas, 16 1/2 x 13 5/8 inches, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., Gif of John Gellatly, 1929

Title: Sara in a Green Bonnet, ca. 1901

Artist: Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)

FAST FACTS: Born May 22, 1844, in Allegheny City, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Raised mainly in Philadelphia, she convinced her father to allow her to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which was beginning to accept women as students. Cassatt was just 16 at the time. Realizing she could only effectively pursue her career in Europe, she eventually studied  art in France and Italy, traveling also across the continent, educating herself through the collections of Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium. By 1874, Cassatt moved permanently to Paris, her parents eventually moving in with their daughter. She would, except for a few trips to the United States, remain in France for the rest of her life, where she died in early eighties.

Considered a member of the French Impressionists, she participated in four of their eight exhibitions held during the peiord of 1874-1886. Her style is characterized by an emphasis on color and design, many of her works of art filled with a clear and luminous light. Like Degas, she created often in pastel, a favorite medium.

Cassatt’s themes are often domestic subjects, since she lived a rather restricted life due to her female sex. Among her models were her sister Lydia, who died at an early age plus her nephews and nieces who would visit periodically from the United States. She is beloved for her often moving portraits of children as well as  maternal scenes of mother and child. She remained unmarried, residing in a Parisian apartment and a chateau in the countryside of France.

Sources include the websites of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.





The Smithsonian American Art Museum does not endorse or approve use of the above image or any of the material on this website. Nor has the Smithsonian American Art Museum participated in any projects utilizing the said image.

This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions), Smithsonian.


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