May 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mary Cassatt

Born on this day in 1844 in Pennsylvania, U.S., Cassatt became an important and well-known painter. She is grouped with the painters known as Impressionists.

Impressionism is an art style that tends to have visible brush strokes and is often painted in bold colors. Because of these two traits, impressionist paintings look “fuzzy” and unrealistic up close but often look very realistic from farther back.

There is usually an emphasis on changing light as opposed to realistic detail, and the subjects are usually ordinary objects and people rather than very grand people and gods in the midst of very grand events. Cassatt's favorite subjects for her paintings were mothers and children.

Cassatt was the only American invited by Edward Degas to exhibit with the Paris-based Impressionists—but, although she was American born and raised, she lived in Paris most of her adult life. She is also considered an excellent printmaker, and a set of her color prints called The Ten became a landmark in Impressionist printmaking.

Learn more about Impressionism

Here is an easy-to-understand slide show about this wonderful art style.

Dabble with Impressionism

In order to c
reate an Impressionistic painting, dab various colors of paint onto the paper instead of outlining shapes with the paintbrush and then filling in.

It might help you to remember to dab, not outline/fill in, if you paint with an unusual item rather than a brush. Try cotton swabs or the small end of chopsticks to apply paint to the paper.

Use lots of different strong colors that will blend in our eyes and mind. As you paint, squint your eyes or stand back from your piece to see how it will look farther away.

ore Cassatt's Paintings
  • Read about Mary Cassatt's life. This is a quickie bio—but an interesting one! Learn why Cassatt's father said, “I would rather see you dead!”

  • Enjoy Jenny and Her Child—and think about the questions posed on the website.

  • Get a close-up view of The Boating Party by clicking "Image Viewer" and then clicking the percentages at the top of the screen.

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