Feel Art Again: "The Child's Bath"

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Today, November 20, marks Universal Children's Day. In honor of the day, we'll take a look at an American artist, Mary Cassatt, who is known for her paintings of children and their mothers. One such painting is "The Child's Bath" from 1893.

1. Mary entered the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at age 16, but soon grew frustrated with the pace, which she felt was slow, and the patronizing attitude of the male students and teachers. Deciding to study the old masters on her own, she left the school and moved to Paris in 1866.

2. After returning home for some time, Mary went back to Europe at the request of the Archbishop of Pittsburgh, who commissioned her in 1871 to paint copies of paintings in Italy. Despite even such approval as this, Mary's parents were still not in favor of her becoming a professional artist.

3. In 1872, Mary Cassatt was first selected for the Paris Salon. Critics thought her portraits were too accurate to be flattering to the subjects.

4. She first began to paint the mother-and-child theme in 1880. While the theme may now seem quite normal, at the time, Mary's paintings reflected the most advanced 19th-century ideas about raising children. Mothers were being encouraged by French scientists and physicians to care for their children themselves; regular bathing was suggested both as a remedy for body odors and as a preventative measure against disease after the cholera epidemics in the mid-1880s.

5. To Achille Ségard, her biographer, she remarked: "I hated conventional art." Chancing upon a window displaying Edgar Degas' work changed her outlook on art; she later wrote to a friend: "I used to go and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art. It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it."

6. Although Mary Cassatt had some difficulty gaining popularity in America, she is now well-known as the only American to exhibit with the original Impressionists. As a result of her fame, a World War II Liberty ship, the SS Mary Cassatt, was named for her. Her paintings have sold for as much as $2.87 million.

'Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday. Well, maybe not Thanksgiving. We'll see.

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November 20, 2007 - 5:36am
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