Mary Cassatt was a fascination. Coming of age in the 19th century when women were assigned a narrow place in the world, she assigned to herself the role of artist and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She was just 15 when she enrolled against her father’s wishes.
She moved to Paris where she encountered continued resistance and was kept from enrolling in an art school intended just for men. She studied privately instead, submitted her work to exhibits only to be rejected again and again, and she dug in and kept working.
During a fateful visit to Chicago in 1871, much of Cassatt's work was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. Bruised but not beaten, she returned to Europe, and in time, her new work began to attract the attention of collectors and critics. She was included in the Salon, exhibited with beloved Impressionists, and became beloved in her own right with a body of work honoring the intimate lives of women.
By 1914, Cassatt was nearly blind and was forced to stop painting, but she continued working for the cause of women’s equality and submitted 18 paintings in an exhibit supporting the suffrage movement.
Not that money is always the thing, but there was a time when Cassatt’s father provided her living expenses while refusing to cover studio supplies, and financing her work was a challenge. Now, her paintings may sell for as much as $4 million a piece.
The Child's Bath (1893)
The Art Institute of Chicago
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