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The Mother and Child

Painting, 1890, 81×65 cm
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Description of the artwork «The Mother and Child»

Mary Cassatte made her choice of the life path when she was eleven years old; after her visit to the Paris World’s Fair she decided to become a painter. Since then she had to fight for her decision facing the objections everywhere. Her family of successful stockbrokers, bankers and manufacturers were against her becoming a professional artist. The American society of that time, which was far from the ideas of gender equality, also did not allow such opportunities.

In 1861 Cassatte began studying painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts when she was 17 years old. There she faced the patronizing attitude of the male students and teachers; the young ladies of that times were allowed the only art of fair manners and appropriate behavior at the table and during parties. Later in Paris Mary Cassatte learnt that freewheeling Europe was very similar to the puritan America; females were not admitted to the Paris State Higher School of Fine Arts.

Cassatt studied privately, she gave private classes, copied the Old Masters in the Louvre each day, all alone against all the odds. She admired painting. Though, most of all she preferred to make her own choice. She entered the history not only as one of the grandes dames of Impressionism (alongside with Marie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot) but also as genuine suffragette; as all her life Mary Cassatte had been fighting for female suffrage.

Somewhat unexpected subject for such an emancipated woman was motherhood and childhood, which brought her the world fame. She did not have her own children (her denial of marriage was another conscious choice of Mary Cassatte) and painted somebody else’s children like mad.

She likely did that on policy ground; Mary Cassatte had been fighting against stereotypes and a feminist not interested in children was a stereotype. She probably liked children; definitely, not each football addict plays football.

1890s, when her artwork the Mother and Child was painted, were the years of Cassatte’s recognition, confidence and matureness. Her romance with Impressionism had already expired by that time. The artist, always seeking self-sufficiency, transformed everything she learned from Corot and Gerome and later from Monet and Cezanne into her own distinctive manner. When looking at this artwork you could not but recollect the pastels by Edgar Degas, an old friend and teacher of Cassatte. By the way, they had much in common; both admired pastel, both were fascinated by Japanese woodcuts, both were long-term bachelors and both lost their sights when they were old. So, we can mention here not the influence but the creative alliance, almost mystical relation. The experiments with composition, mood and color are left behind, and the painting is rather iconographic. The child’s face is depicted like an icon. The rest of the artwork is performed with scanty fast hatches. To some extent, it was the influence of the minimalistic Asian style graphics, and to some extent, a sense-bearing emphasis. The child is nourished, healthy and loved by his mother. The other things including female suffrage are not so important.

Author: Andrew Zimoglyadov
from 1450 rub
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Impressionism

Technique: Pastel

Materials: Paper

Date of creation: 1890

Size: 81×65 cm

Artwork in selections: 7 selections

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