The Metropolitan Museum of Art is fortunate to own more than 100 paintings, prints, and pastels by Mary Cassatt (American, 1844–1926), and visitors can view the work of this perennially popular artist in the Museum’s galleries. Heralded for her sensitive mother-and-child scenes, a theme she embraced after 1893, Cassatt portrayed a variety of figurative subjects throughout her career, such as her family, the theater, and the opera.
The artist was also keenly interested in the upscale fashions of her day, both as consumer and chronicler—and she often focused on clothing in her work, such as The Bonnet, below. A well-dressed woman of means, while living in France she reportedly ordered bespoke garments to send to prosperous family and friends in the United States.
In Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, The Met’s 2013 blockbuster exhibition, Cassatt appeared as both subject and artist. Her rare self-portrait of 1878 shows her in a lacy white dress and matching gloves, complete with a chic flowered bonnet tied around her neck with a large bow.
Her mentor and friend Edgar Degas depicted her in a fashion-forward walking suit and sleek parasol in Mary Cassatt at the Louvre: The Etruscan Gallery, below. In this regard, Cassatt (like Berthe Morisot) successfully negotiated the influential Impressionist movement as both a gifted producer and a stylish model—a singular achievement for a 19th-century woman.
On view at The Met through July 29, 2018, Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence presents a different slant on Cassatt’s work. Here the theme is the transformation of France’s 19th-century landscape due to advances in horticulture and urban planning, as exotic botanical species were introduced and verdant public spaces were opened to the bourgeoisie.
One section of the exhibition looks at the revival of floral still-life painting during the period, a practice endorsed by artists such as Edouard Manet, Henri Fantin-Latour, and others. Cassatt was not known to make many such works, the exception being this beautiful bouquet of lilacs, which is available from The Met Store as a print reproduction, shown below.
Another part of the exhibition illuminates the artistic trend for portraits painted in the garden, away from the confines of the artist’s studio. The sun-dappled light and relaxed settings of these outdoor scenes gave Impressionists like Cassatt ample opportunities to capture their multifaceted moods and hues, including Lydia Crocheting in the Garden at Marly at top and Portrait of a Young Girl, below.
Born on this day in 1844, Mary Cassatt left an indelible artistic legacy. Discover additional products related to the exhibition Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence.