not be fooled by Mary Cassatt's self-portrait in a dainty white dress,
her face timidly facing away from the viewer. Cassatt was a mover
and shaker of her time. She
developed her art like a professional, working not only on her painting
skills but on her abilities as an adviser and entrepreneur.
was one of the key early influences for the French Impressionists
to be appreciated in America.
She was a close friend of Louisine Elder (then Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer). Louisine married an industrial tycoon,
and she invested the money--with some risk--in a vast collection of
19th Century French painting.
by Cassatt, and mediated mainly by Cassat's agent, Durand-Ruel, she
chose to invest in upstarts such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Cezanne,
and of course, Cassatt (for example, Girl
Arranging her Hair) .The Havemeyer's collection also included
Salon artists such as Ingres, Courbet and Corot.
have pointed out that Louisine was very much swayed by Cassatt's opinion. For example, following Cassatt's advice
she sold some Cezannes (Cassatt having changed her mind on the value
of the work of this particular painter) which Louisine later regretted.
In 1910 Cassatt would write to an artist-friend from Philadelphia..."The
dealers had nothing to sell so boomed Cezanne as against such men
as Manet. To be sure those who have money buy Manets. I sold my Cezanne
for which I paid 100 francs twenty five years ago (I was one of the
first to see merit in his pictures) for 8,000 francs...Cezanne's nude
figures are almost a copy of some of Greco's; he was always more influenced
by pictures than by nature, except in his still life." (Weitzenhoffer,
Frances; The Havemeyers, p192)
was also asked to show her own work in America in several venues.
was commissioned, for example, to create a mural for the 1893 World's
Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1915, she exhibited, along with
Degas, in the Suffrage Benefit Exhibition, organized by Louisine Havemeyer,
at Knoedler's Galleries, in New York.
broke the rules of the time by leaving her native America at a young
age; by finding her own tutors throughout Europe--and thereby circumventing
the obstacle of not being able to study at the Beaux-Arts because
she was a woman; by first showing in the Salon and then rejecting
the Salon in favor of the Impressionists; by marketing Impressionist
works abroad through her wealthy connections.
seldom acknowledged as such, she was a key player in the success of
the Impressionist movement in the U.S.
The Cotton Exchange 1873
whose mother descended from New Orleans, decided early on in his career
to adventure in America.
Impressionists ever visited America in their early career. They preferred to study the Old Masters
the Franco-Prussian War (in which Degas, like Manet, had fought),
Degas went to visit his two brothers and his uncle Michel Musson and
their families in New Orleans during the winter of 1872-73. He was
able to paint canvases of his New Orleans relatives, including The
Cotton Exchange, and to think about his future. The trip was a
turning point in his career. To his painter friend Tissot, he wrote:
"The naturalist movement will draw in the manner of the great
schools and then its strength will be recognized."
(Boggs, Jean Sutherland; Degas, p23). After Degas returned
from New Orleans to Paris in March 1873, Degas began to recruit artists
for the first Impressionist exhibition that he, Monet, Morisot, Renoir,
Cezanne, and others were planning to hold in 1874.
visit to the U.S. might have also influenced his friendship with the
American artist Cassatt. He
was one of her closest friends. Perhaps, the fact that she was American,
opened an opportunity for Degas--who was known to be an witty yet
ascerbic critic, even of his closest colleagues and friends.
Cassatt admired Degas' work and often often
advised Louisine Havemeyer to include Degas' paintings in her collection.