Mary Cassatt spent most of her life and career in France, where she was an active member of elite social and artistic circles. In the late 1870s she forged friendships with innovative painters including Camille Pissarro and Edgar Degas, becoming the only American to be officially associated with the Impressionists. At the end of the nineteenth century, many artists turned to the "mother and child" theme as an updated version of the Madonna and child, but Cassatt made it her specialty. Through her experiments with painting, pastel, and printmaking, she captured the daily lives of women and children, uniting a traditional subject with new artistic techniques. Later works such as Maternal Caress often focus on the child, demonstrating Cassatt's sensitive observation of young people growing up in a modern world.
Mary Cassatt’s (American, 1844–1926) paintings, pastels, and prints demonstrate her personal philosophy that “women should be someone and not something.” In domestic scenes, Cassatt explores the lives and occupations of women, showing them as active and engaged figures. She depicts women reading, caregivers bathing children, and ladies enjoying tea, sealing a letter, or driving a carriage.
Born in Pennsylvania, Cassatt was the only American to join the French Impressionists. Although she spent most of her life abroad, her family’s connections to Philadelphia have made the museum, which holds eighty-three artworks and numerous letters by Cassatt, an important center for her work.
Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art