Sunday, 8 May 2011


“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” - George Washington

Mothers’ Day in Melbourne started out being cool and gray. There was rain predicted for later so it was a nice day for a sleep-in and a hot breakfast. The giving of gifts and flowers then followed and we later went out and visited a Sunday market, which despite the weather was absolutely full of people. Pots of chrysanthemums and bunches of flowers were being sold everywhere and tables of bric-a-brac, china, books and DVDs as well as the inevitable slippers had big signs advertising that all of these items were indeed a “perfect Mothers’ Day gift that your Mum will adore!”… At about lunchtime the rain started to fall and we went back home. We watched a movie and then had a quiet afternoon. In the evening I did some work and then read a little. There went the Sunday…

For Mothers’ Day one cannot go past Mary Cassatt as a special featured artist for this day. Cassatt was an American painter and printmaker who exhibited with the Impressionists. She was born on May 22, 1844, in Allegheny City, now part of Pittsburg, and died June 14, 1926, Château de Beaufresne, near Paris, France. She lived in Europe for five years as a young girl. Late in the USA, she was tutored privately in art in Philadelphia and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1861–65, but she preferred learning on her own and in 1866 travelled to Europe to study. Her first major showing was at the Paris Salon of 1872; four more annual Salon exhibitions followed.

In 1874 Cassatt chose Paris as her permanent home and established her studio there. She shared with the Impressionists an interest in experiment and in using bright colours inspired by the out-of-doors. Edgar Degas became her friend; his style and that of Gustave Courbet inspired her own. Degas was known to admire her drawing especially, and at his request she exhibited with the Impressionists in 1879 and joined them in shows in 1880, 1881, and 1886. Like Degas, Cassatt showed great mastery of drawing, and both artists preferred unposed asymmetrical compositions. Cassatt also was innovative and inventive in exploiting the medium of pastels.

Initially, Cassatt was a figure painter whose subjects were groups of women drinking tea or on outings with friends. After the great exhibition of Japanese prints held in Paris in 1890, she brought out her series of 10 coloured prints, in which the influence of the Japanese masters Utamaro and Toyokuni is apparent. In these etchings, combining aquatint, dry point, and soft ground, she brought her printmaking technique to perfection. Her emphasis shifted from form to line and pattern. Soon after 1900 her eyesight began to fail, and by 1914 she had ceased working. The principal motif of her mature and perhaps most familiar period is mothers caring for small children. The painting above "Breakfast in Bed" of 1897 (Huntington Library and Art Collection) typifies this genre of her painting.

Cassatt urged her wealthy American friends and relatives to buy Impressionist paintings, and in this way, more than through her own works, she exerted a lasting influence on American taste. She was largely responsible for selecting the works that make up the H.O. Havemeyer Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.


  1. I've always liked Mary Cassatt's art and you are right, her mother and child paintings are so appropriate for Mother's Day!
    I hope you had a nice one with your mother, Nicholas!

  2. Hello Nicholas:
    This most informative post, headed with such a delightful image, has told us much about this American artist which, previously, we did not know.

    Another of our favourite blogs also featured one of her paintings for Mothers' Day.

  3. I love this painting Nic!!!
    beautiful and relevant to Mothers Day.....