Digital Commonwealth

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926). Prints and Drawings

Boston Public Library

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Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was an American painter and printmaker.

Born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, now part of Pittsburgh, Cassatt lived with her family in Paris from 1851 to 1856. In 1856, Cassatt returned to Philadelphia, where she studied at the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts. She then returned to Europe for further study and settled permanently in Paris in 1874.

Once settled in Paris, Cassatt established friendships with Edgar Degas and other members of the Impressionist circle. In addition to pursuing their careers as painters, many of the Impressionists--influenced by the influx of Japanese prints into Paris--also participated in the revival of interest in etching that took place in England and France during the second half of the 19th century. Encouraged in particular by Degas, Cassatt developed her skills as a printmaker, especially in the techniques of etching, drypoint, and aquatint. In collaboration with the master printer Louis Leroy, during the 1890s she explored the new techniques being developed in color printmaking. In 1891, she created her most recognized series of ten color prints inspired by the techniques and imagery of the Japanese prints she had studied.

Cassatt created 220 prints over the course of her career, which her Parisian dealer Paul Durand-Ruel sold to both American and French collectors. As an American artist, Cassatt, along with James Abbott McNeill Whistler, was influential in disseminating knowledge about the French etching revival and in establishing printmaking as a fine art in the United States.

Through gifts from Albert H. Wiggin and a bequest from the estate of Lee M. Friedman, Boston Public Library’s collection includes fine impressions of Cassatt’s work in drypoint: The Map, The Mirror, and The Crocheting Lesson, as well as two color prints from her 1891 series: In the Omnibus and Mother’s Kiss.