Mary Cassatt

American Impressionist Painter, 1844-1926


Mary Cassatt, self-portrait, 1897.

I have touched with a sense of art some people – they felt the love and the life. Can you offer me anything to compare to that joy for an artist?

Mary Cassatt was born in Philadelphia, PA to a very wealthy family. She traveled abroad a great deal as a child, as was common for the upper class. At age 15, she enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She yearned to become an artist and to study art in France. Her parents didn’t want her exposed to the feminist ideas and bohemian behavior associated with artists, and saw art as a social skill, and not a career appropriate for a woman. She convinced her parents to allow her to move to Paris when she was 22, but was not permitted to enroll in the leading art academy, because of her gender. She found private instructors, including Edgar Degas, whose “Impression: Sunrise” gave name to the style of art. She continued in the Impressionist style and was an avid supporter of her artist friends, buying their work and referring them to other members of society.

About the Project:

Students will learn the basic proportions for drawing a portrait or self-portrait, and will create a portrait that ‘tells a story’ about their subject.

Classroom Presentation Materials



Carnegie Picture Lab is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that focuses on art eduction in Walla Walla valley schools. Read more about CPL here .