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Mary Stevenson Cassatt

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A Woman and a Girl Driving, 1881

About the Artwork

Mary Cassatt, like her contemporary Thomas Eakins, left Philadelphia for study in Paris in 1866. As a woman, she was ineligible for admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and perhaps because she was excluded from the official system, her taste in art was much more adventurous than that of any other young American expatriate artist. Cassatt was drawn to the work of such antiestablishment figures as Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, and the group derisively called the "Impressionists" after their first exhibition in 1874. Her friend and artistic adviser Edgar Degas invited her to exhibit with the Impressionists, and she was the only American to do so, beginning in 1879. A Woman and Girl Driving, portraying the artist's sister Lydia Cassatt with a young niece of Degas's in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, shows Cassatt's affinity with the Impressionists in the depiction of a scene of daily life with fresh colors and loosely defined forms. The asymmetrical composition and its abrupt truncation on all four sides are particularly reminiscent of her friend Degas. Darrel Sewell, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 289.

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