WOMEN AS ARTISTS-4 
 

This last page covers Cassatt and Morisot depicting women in different activities and at different stages of their life.


Mary Cassatt
Woman and Child Driving 1881

In this painting, Mary Cassatt puts Lydia Cassatt, her sister, in the driver's seat, while a male figure sits facing away, in the back.  The woman driver has a determined look, knowing where she's going, intent on her destination.  The little girl beside her, Degas' niece, leans forward and holds on tight to the carriage while she stares on, dreamily, toward their destination.  Notice that the women are highlighted by light whereas the man, in the background, is hidden in the shadows cast by the forest.

This perspective on women in control would be an unusual theme for the Salon.  In this regard, Cassatt rebels against the traditional themes prized by the Academy.




Berthe Morisot
Peasant hanging the Washing 1881

Morisot chooses to paint a peasant hanging laundry.  She wants to acknowledge that artists, too, might be doing such a chore.  The woman portrayed is paying close attention to the task at hand rather than gazing at the viewer.

The brushstrokes are fresh, and depict the movement of the wind as it plays with the laundry as well as the surrounding shrubbery.

This is cleary not a mythological theme--hanging laundry is something that this peasant woman probably practiced frequently.  With its emphasis on portraying the ordinary tasks of life by ordinary people, Morisot demonstrates her allegiance to Impressionist topics.




Berthe Morisot
Catching Butterflies 1873

Morisot executes a plein air scene of Edma, Berthe's sister, and her family.  This is a leisure scene in a private garden. Edma holds a butterfly net and is protected from the summer sun by her hat and shawl.

Corot, an academy painter, and her tutor, deemed this theme to be painted in watercolor and suggested to Berthe that she study Correggio's work at the Louvre twice a week for three hours.

Morisot's oil palette shows the influence of Corot, however the treatment of light flickering throughout the afternoon scene is typical of the Impressionists.  Her brushtrokes are fluid within a fairly tight compositional structure.

The Salon artists would not deem a common leisure scene worthy of their time.




Mary Cassatt
Portrait of Katherine
(Mrs Robert SimpsonCassatt) 1889

This portrait is unusual because it shows an elderly woman, lost in thought.  This is Cassatt's mother.  Generally at the Salon, portraits would be made of young rich socialites, but seldom would we see an older woman, head in hand, in an introspective mood. The other hand holds on to a handkerchief, resting on her lap. Cassatt is not afraid of showing, in detail, her mother's raised brows and her lips pursed, in a way that is not idyllic.   She also portrayed her mother, that same year, using a completely different technique: soft ground etching, the exact mirror image of this pose.   The etching shows Cassatt's interest in Japanese prints.  We should note that Cassatt considered her aging mother as a topic worthy of studying in various media.

The portrait is loosely painted, conveying softness to the portrait. Cassatt's use of the mirror as background and a vase of flowers recurs throughout her work.

These portrayals of women created by women painters differ from the view that male artists had of women at the time.

 
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