Observed today, these astonishing prints by Mary Cassatt – currently being celebrated at the New York Public Library in its latest retrospective, Daring Methods: The Prints of Mary Cassatt – are startlingly fresh and elicit a subdued, natural beauty. A friend of Edward Degas who accepted his offer to join the Impressionist group after her work was rebuffed by the Paris Salon in 1875, one can trace his influence in her art. And yet, we might look at Cassatt’s work as a reaction to the women of Degas’ work, who appeared as ballerinas or prostitutes – or both. Cassatt’s women are mothers bathing their babies, or perhaps single women seen at their toilettes, writing letters, getting ready to leave the house, as well as women of different ages in more arranged poses sitting for a portrait.
Perhaps even more than Degas’ influence, we can see in Cassatt’s work how heavily inspired she was by the Japanese