Fine Art Friday | Mary Cassatt

Today marks the first of hopefully many Fridays that I plan to feature brief posts on artists and culture that I find inspiring.  Today I am kicking off this series with the female impressionist painter, Mary Cassatt (1844-1926).  I came across her work back in college in my Women in Art History seminar.  What draws me to her work is her subject matter and use of color.  Most often, a domestic scene of a female at home with her offspring is documented.  Her palette is often bright, and sometimes on the pastel side like other Impressionists.  An interesting things to note – at the time, fabric trade was booming with the East, so Cassatt often renders unique and interesting patterns in the clothing and drapery.  Also, she includes mirrors often, which has meanings on multiple levels (I believe I wrote a long paper on Freud and the theory of the “Mirror Stage” in grad school which referenced Cassatt).  The mirror can be a symbol of self-awareness, vanity, reality vs. warped reality, the list goes on…  Artists love incorporating mirrors into their work, as 2D artwork is a surface that acts like a mirror, reflecting how the artist perceives life.

All that said, for me it is Cassatt’s concentration on the intimacy between mother and children in the comfort of their own home that fascinated me.  I think she is a predecessor for so many of the documentary photographers who I plan to feature here – for so many of us “lifestyle” photographers.  That bond between mother (or parent) and child is essential to the work I provide my clients with.

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