Monday, May 25, 2009

A colorful journey - Mary Cassatt

If you’ve accessed the search engine Google on Friday the 22nd, you have certainly seen the change in the logo, marking the 165th anniversary of Mary Cassatt’s birth. If you haven’t clicked on the logo to learn more, shame on you, you’ve missed a glimpse into a world of tranquility and color, a journey back into childhood and summer holidays.

First of all : I’m a painting buff, so get used to some talk about paintings, after all this is my place, so I write about whatever interests me. I can’t help drooling in front of a beautiful painting and I’ve been known to spend hours in museums just looking at the impressionist masters. There…that's the truth, like it or not, I'll spend more time in a museum than in a shop (with the possible exception of H&M, but that's different).

This being said, I have to mention that my parents’ bookcase holds many treasures. Among those, an art album with American impressionist painters, that’s how I became fascinated with Mary Cassatt’s work. Browsing the glossy pages I came by something spectacular, games of light and colour that really fascinated me. And this little girl, Sarah:

And another image so you can really see what I'm talking about. She often made portaits of her sisters or brothers, their children, people on the street, but also hired models to pose. So there are several versions of the same painting, or the same person at different ages. Sarah certainly had a lot of paintings done of her.

I don't know what became of Sarah, I think she was a niece of Cassatt's. She remaind's me of a picture I saw of my mum at about the same age, and maybe that's where the fascination came from. Other than that, I love the wamth that surrounds the painting, and of course, the little dog. I find the painting typical of Mary Cassatt's style: she had a deep understanding of children and women and these where her subjects of choice, doing normal things.

Cassatt thought marriage was incompatible with her career and despite a long lasting relationship with French painter Degas, she never married or had children. She painted mostly portets and scenes related to every day life, glimpses of quiet, tranquil living, many portaits of women with their children.Cassatt was close to the Impressionist, exhibiting with them and being active in their movement. Her use of colors and light is apparent of such a relationship. Under their inspiration, she took her work outside the workshop, always carrying a sketch book and this can be seen in her painting: snapshots of life.

She was a modern woman, refusing the gender discriminations of her time, she did her best to brake boundaries. It was said she was too outspoken for her own good, although less so with age. When she was unhappy with the learning she received at the Academy, she took it upon herself to improve and study the Old Masters. Cassatt travelled extensively through Europe, considering the only way to succed is to broaden your horizons.

What fascinated me was her use of colors. Although this was one of the things that was criticated during her lifetime, I find that the bright colors and warm tones bring the subjects to life.

All the pictures are from Wikipedia, where you will also find more information on Mary Cassatt and the Impressionists. Also worth a look, the American Impressionists.

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