Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Art in Philadelphia
The history of art, particularly painting and sculpture, has been a long and distinguished one. If you add in the art schools, the Philadelphia national influence on artists has been a dominant one.

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New topic 2017-02-06 20:33:59 description

Mary Cassatt

The most famous
Philadelphia Cassat
shows a mother driving
an open carriage
with small daughter
beside her,
and her
brother on
the back seat.

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844-1926) is variously proclaimed as the greatest woman artist ever, and America's greatest impressionist painter of either sex. She is thus, from a Philadelphia perspective, the greatest Philadelphia woman artist. Mary was, in truth, born in Pittsburgh spent most of her artistic career in Paris, and relatively few of her numerous pictures are to be found in Philadelphia. But she spent four years training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, her family moved to Philadelphia, and what is most important of all, her brother Alexander was president of the Pennsylvania Railroad at a time when such a position was nearly the same as being King.

Alexander Cassatt
President of the Pennsylvania Railroad

Almost all of her many paintings used members of her family as models, and almost invariably the paintings portray women or young girls. If there is a male in the picture (and there are a few), you have to recheck the label to be sure it is a Cassatt. This bias raises questions about her private life, which she would certainly have regarded as no one's business. She was the long-term competitor of a slightly less famous Philadelphian Paris artistic exile, Cecili a Beaux, and she was very active in the suffragette movement. On the other hand, she had a forty-year relationship with Degas, with whom she was professionally very close, as well as personally.

Mary Cassatt was a classmate at the Pennsylvania Academy of Thomas Eakins, but they did not get along. The master anatomist and the greatest woman impressionist were certainly hampered by professional disagreement; apparently they both took it personally.

Originally published: Thursday, February 24, 1994; most-recently modified: Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Yes, I'm trying to get info on a painting (The most famous Philadelphia Cassat shows a mother driving an open carriage with small daughter beside her,and her brother on the back seat. It has Mary Cassatt name on it at the lower bottom right hand corner if u r looking at the painting. It is in a green fram with paper backing on it. If you know of any one who could help me please let me know. Thank you, Susan
Posted by: Susan   |   Jan 31, 2014 8:05 PM