Speaking Volumes: Remembering Mary Cassatt, one of the most influential artists of her time

If you ask someone to name painters from the Impressionist movement, they likely will list several French men, particularly Monet, Degas and Renoir.

But one of the most influential artists of that time was a woman from Pittsburgh named Mary Cassatt. She’s best known for her tender depictions of mothers and children, and even if you do not recognize her name, you probably have seen her work.

This month marked the 175th birth anniversary of Cassatt, whose life truly was unconventional for her time.

She was born in 1844 into a wealthy family in Pennsylvania. At age 22, she traveled to Paris to study art despite strong opposition from her family.

She returned to the U.S. briefly during the Franco-Prussian War. After eight months studying the works of the masters in Italy, Spain and Belgium, she settled in Paris in 1874.

Her paintings began to be accepted by juried exhibitions, and within a few years she became the only American associated with the Impressionists.

Your local Manatee County library has titles for all ages on the life and works of Cassatt.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Baby Loves” is a book of rhyming text for young children featuring 16 Cassatt paintings and prints of mother and child. The soothing rhythm and soft colors are perfect for a bedtime read.

The creation of Cassatt’s painting “Little Girl in a Blue Armchair” is the subject of Joan Sweeney’s “Suzette and the Puppy: A Story about Mary Cassatt.” Illustrated by Jennifer Heyd Wharton, the story describes the chance meeting of a little girl and a rambunctious Griffon Terrier running loose in the park. The dog belonged to Cassatt. The girl eventually posed for the now-famous painting.

Hoopla, the libraries’ database, offers the eBook “Charlotte in Paris” by Joan Knight. Set in the artist colony of Giverny in 1892, Charlotte is thrilled when her artist father receives an invitation to Cassatt’s exhibition. The book resembles a scrapbook as it details Charlotte’s experiences of living among ground-breaking artists. The book is illustrated by Melissa Sweet with watercolor collages and reproductions of famous paintings.

Adult readers will find the eBook “Cassatt” by Nathalie Brodskaya on Hoopla. The biography chronicles Cassatt’s independent spirit, her determination to have her work accepted and her often speculated upon friendship with Edgar Degas.

Fans of historical fiction may enjoy Robin Oliveira’s “I Always Loved You.” The relationship between Cassatt and Degas is the subject of this well-researched novel of Belle Époque Paris. This title is also available as an audiobook.

Also available for checkout is the DVD “Mary Cassatt,” part of the Great Women Artists series. The DVD explores Cassatt’s wide range of influences in her career from the paintings of Velázquez to Japanese prints by Hokusai.

Call your local branch for more information on available titles.

Central Library — 941-748-5555;

Braden River — 941-727-6079;

Island — 941-778-6341;

Palmetto — 941-722-3333;

Rocky Bluff — 941-723-4821;

South Manatee — 941-755-3892.

You also can access the library via the internet at

Mary Lysaght is the assistant supervisor at the Rocky Bluff Library. Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday in the Bradenton Herald.

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