Cassatt, Mary (1845-1927) Mary Cassatt, one of the two women and the only American to show with the Impressionists, was born in Pittsburgh. She was the daughter of a millionaire and spent her childhood in Europe with her family. When the Cassatts returned to live in Philadelphia, Mary studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art until she was twenty-three. Then, against her father’s wishes, she left for Europe to study further and visit Italy, Spain, and Belgium before going to Paris where, as she said, the sight of a pastel by Degas changed her life. It was through Degas, who was more her sponsor than her teacher, that she was invited to join the Impressionists in 1879 and she was delighted to be relieved of the arbitrary standards established for acceptance at the official Salons.
Cassatt scrupulously separated her social life from her artistic one and was in some ways aloof from the relaxed artistic atmosphere around her. Her subject matter was thus restricted to the pastimes with which she was generally surrounded, but her technique and power were by no means limited. She was an accomplished artist in her favourite mediums: oil, pastel, etching, and lithography.
By far the wealthiest and most financially influential of the Impressionists, Cassatt did a great deal, unobtrusively, to help her associates. Not only did she purchase many of their works for herself but she also encouraged her friends to collect Impressionist art and, when conditions were desperate, she even loaned money to the Durand-Ruel Gallery to promote an exhibition.
Cassatt, who received very little recognition in her own country until long after her death, lived and worked in France throughout her life and was awarded the French Legion of Honour in 1904.