National Museum of Women in the Arts
Mary Cassatt
May 22 1844 - June 14 1926
Photograph of Mary Cassatt, 1914, unknown photographer. 10 1/4 x 6 3/4 inches (26 x 17 cm). Frederick A. Sweet research material on Mary Cassatt and James A. McNeill Whistler, 1872-1975. Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, USA.
Place of Birth:
Allegheny City
American, French
Phonetic Spelling:
MAIR-ee keh-SAT
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Drawings and prints, Painting
Artistic Role(s):
Aquatinter, Etcher, Genre Painter, Muralist, Painter, Pastelist, Portraitist, Printmaker
Artist's Biography:
Mary Cassatt grew up in an upper-middle-class household in western Pennsylvania. Cassatt’s training as a painter began in 1861 when she enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1865, she took her first trip to Europe, where she would remain for the next four years, traveling and studying in Paris, Rome, and Madrid. In 1868, her painting A Mandolin Player became Cassatt’s first work to be accepted by the Paris Salon.

Edgar Degas saw Cassatt’s work at the Salon, and in 1877, he asked her to join the Impressionists. Having experienced a number of rejections from subsequent Salon exhibitions and other significant juried shows, Cassatt readily accepted Degas’ invitation. Cassatt’s painting style and subject matter changed greatly because of her association with the Impressionists. She abandoned colorful costume genre depictions in favor of scenes from contemporary life. In 1879, Degas, the etcher Félix Bracquemond, and Camille Pissaro were preparing work for a new print journal Le jour et la nuit. Cassatt’s subsequent involvement in this project would indelibly influence her oeuvre by whetting her appetite for the graphic medium. The journal was never published, but the artists’ efforts to experiment with graphic techniques were very important to Cassatt’s development as a painter. Throughout the latter half of the 1880s Cassatt produced dry points of members of her family, and in 1889 at the Exposition de Peintres-Graveurs at the Durand-Ruel Gallery, she submitted both a dry point and an etching.

Although an expatriate from 1874 on, Cassatt is recognized as one of the foremost American painters and printmakers of the nineteenth century. An exceptionally prolific printmaker, she produced more than 220 prints during the course of her career. Cassatt’s failing eyesight prevented her from working for the last fifteen years of her life.

Other Occupation(s):
Art Historian, Traveler
Place(s) of Residence:
Le Mesnil-Th�ribus
Where Trained/Schools:
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1861-1865)
Related Visual Artists:
student of Charles Chaplin student of Thomas Couture student of Charles Bellay student of Jean-Léon Gérôme student of Carlos Raimondi student of Paul Constant Soyer student of Pierre Édouard Frère teacher of Mary Cecilia Wheeler friend of Pierre-Auguste Renoir friend of Minerva J. Chapman friend of Edgar Degas friend of Berthe Morisot friend of Camille Pissaro friend of Emily Sartain friend of Elizabeth Nourse friend of Rose Lamb
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Gold Medal of Honor, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1914) Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, Republic of France, Paris, France (1904) Norman Wait Harris Prize, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA (1904)
Earliest exhibition:
Le Salon, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (1868)
NMWA exhibition(s):
American Women Artists: 1830-1930
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts
The Washington Print Club Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition: Graphic Legacy
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997
Artist retrospective(s):
Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA (1998-1999) Mary Cassatt, 1844-1926, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA (1970) Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, France (1893)
Related places
The Bath, 1891
Buste d'une femme en corsage blanc (Portrait of Katherine Cassatt)
Margot Wearing a Bonnet (No. 1)
Maternal Caress
Mother Louise Nursing Her Child
Mother's Kiss
Portrait Sketch of Mme. Fontveille, No. 1
Sketch for "Mother and Child"
Sketch of Denise's Daughter
Study of One of the Little Sisters
Study of Reine with Outline of a Child's Head
The Bath