Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt


By
Armand Cabrera

Mary Cassatt was born in Allegheny City, (Pittsburgh) Pennsylvania in 1844, the daughter of Robert Simpson Cassatt and Katherine Kelso Johnston. Cassatt’s father was a stockbroker and real estate investor. When Cassatt was seven, her family moved to Europe—first living in France and then in Germany. They returned to America in 1855.

Cassatt enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1861. After four years, Cassatt became dissatisfied with the curriculum at the Academy and decided to pursue independent study of the Masters in the museums of France, Italy and Spain. In the 1860’s, this decision was unthinkable for most Victorian women born into a well-to-do family. The idea of women pursuing a career—let alone a career in art—was vulgar to most of society and would have risen more than a few eyebrows. Cassatt prevailed over her family’s protestations and moved to Paris. In Paris, she briefly studied in the Atelier of Charles Chaplin and then studied on her own.


In 1871, Cassatt fled France at the outbreak of the Franco Prussian War and returned to America. Later, she moved to Parma, Italy where she studied engraving at the Parma Academy. While in Italy, her first painting was accepted into the Paris Salon under the name of “Mary Stevenson”.

In 1874, she returned to Paris. Cassatt admired the work of Manet and Degas. Although she continued to submit to the Salon, she was sympathetic towards the goals of the younger artists. These artists sought the right to freely exhibit their work without the restrictive jury process followed by the salons. In 1877, she was rejected from the Salon Show and never submitted again. Cassatt later met Degas. He admired her work and invited her to show with the Impressionists. She participated in four Impressionist shows–the only American to do so. Cassatt focused on capturing modern women in natural settings. Her strong composition and drawing skills set her apart from most of the other Impressionists. She was a fine printmaker and produced groundbreaking work in that field. Cassatt was instrumental in seeing that Impressionist’s works were collected in America. She helped build the Havemeyer Collection which contained many fine examples of Manet, Monet and Degas work. In 1892, Cassatt created a mural for the Chicago Columbian Exhibition. With the sales from her second One Woman Show, Cassatt bought a 17th Century Manor in the Oise Valley in France. It became her summer home for the rest of her life.

Mary Cassatt developed cataracts in 1915, forcing her to abandon her painting the last ten years of her life. She died in 1926.


Bibliography

Mary Cassatt: Modern WomanArt Institute of Chicago
Abrams

Mary Cassatt Oils and PastelsE. John Bullard
Watson Guptill

Mary CassattNancy Mowll Mathews
Abrams

Quote

I have tried to express the modern woman in the fashions of our day, the sweetness of childhood, the charm of womanhood if I have not conveyed some sense of that charm, in one word if I have not been absolutely feminine, then I have failed.~ Mary Cassatt

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Marion Kavanaugh Wachtel

Marion Kavanagh Wachtel


By
Armand Cabrera

Marion Kavanagh was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1876. Her mother was an artist who encouraged Marion to pursue an artistic career. Marion studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and then with William Merritt Chase in New York. Chase was a proponent of outdoor painting and instilled in his students the importance of working from life. Marion returned to the Art Institute in Chicago to teach for several years before heading out west to study for a short time with William Keith in San Francisco.


When Marion decided to travel to Southern California in 1903, Keith advised Marion to look up Elmer Wachtel, a landscape painter whom Keith admired. When Marion arrived in Los Angeles she took Keith’s advice. Wachtel and Marion were married in Chicago in 1904. Once she was married, Marion began signing her paintings “Marion Kavanagh Wachtel”. She held solo shows of her work and also exhibited with her husband. Her watercolors were popular and she regularly exhibited in group shows on the east and west coasts. To avoid competing with her husband, Marion chose to paint only in watercolor until Elmer’s death.

Marion’s watercolors have a unique pastel color sense and atmospheric quality, separating her from most of the other painters of that time. Her diverse oeuvre includes portraits, California Coastal scenes, the Sierras and Sonoran desert. She was a founding member of the California Watercolor Society and was active in the Pasadena Society of Artists and the Academy of Western Painters as well as the New York Watercolor Club.

After Elmer Wachtel’s death in 1929, Marion took a hiatus from painting for a few years. When she picked up a brush again in 1931, it was in oils. Her oils show the same mastery her watercolors demonstrate with atmosphere and color. Marion died in Pasadena in 1954.

Bibliography
All Things Bright and Beautiful California Impressionist paintings from the Irvine Museum.
Irvine Museum

Plein Air Painters of California the SouthlandRuth Westphal

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Harriet Randall Lumis

Harriet Randall Lumis

 

By
Armand Cabrera

Harriet Randall was born on May 29, 1870, in Salem Connecticut. After the Civil War, Salem was a small and prosperous farming community. Harriet attended school and showed an interest in the various arts, including music, drawing and dance.

In 1892, at the age of 22, Harriet married Fred Lumis, a 29 year old architect. The couple moved to Springfield, Connecticut. It was here Harriet pursued formal art education. The couple enrolled in the Evening Free Hand Drawing School through the Springfield public education system. Harriet continued her instruction with Leonard Ochtman.

In 1910, Fred Lumis was appointed City Building Commissioner in Springfield. The new position allowed the Lumis’s to buy a house and build Harriet a studio. She became active in many regional art clubs and entered her work in numerous exhibitions.

At the age of 50, Harriet enrolled in the Breckenridge School of Art and studied there for three years. Under Hugh Breckenridge, Harriet’s work became less restrictive and more colorful—adopting a more impressionistic style. Her work employed broken color and vigorous brushwork.

In 1937, her husband died after an operation at the age of 76. Harriet was left with no income except her painting sales which were not enough to provide for her. Teaching became her best solution. Harriet held classes outdoors and at her studio for the rest of her life.

An outspoken opponent of the new painting styles predominant at the time, Harriet never chased the trends of Modernism. In 1949, with a group of like-minded artists, she formed the Academic Artists Association. The purpose of the group was to “encourage the showing of realistic works of art in local museums and promote the interests of artists who work in a realistic manner”.

The last years of her life, Harriet continued to paint and teach, spending much of the time in her formal gardens that surrounded her studio. She died in 1953 at the age of 82.


Bibliography

Harriet Randall Lumis 1870-1953
An American impressionist

Richard Love
Exhibition Catalog 1977

Quote
I like to get the color notes and form in one sitting… I have an occasional picture that has been completed in one sitting under especially favorable circumstances, but more often than not there are days of study and repeated trips to the scene.~Harriet Lumis

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Jane Peterson

Jane Peterson


by
Armand Cabrera

Jane Peterson was born “Jennie Christine Peterson” in Elgin, Illinois in 1876. She began her formal art studies at the Pratt Institute of New York City under Arthur Wesley Dow. Before her 1901 graduation, Peterson taught classes in painting at the Institute. She next studied with Frank Vincent DuMond in Boston. She saved enough money to travel abroad to continue her schooling. Overseas, Peterson studied first with Frank Brangwyn in London and then Joaquin Sorolla in Madrid. Peterson’s return to the United States was recognized with shows in 1909 in both Boston and New York.

Peterson taught at the Art Students League of New York between 1913 and 1919. Peterson painted with John Singer Sargent, Maurice Prendergast, Childe Hassam, Joaquin Sorolla and Louis Comfort Tiffany. She painted in Europe, Turkey and Africa.

Peterson was recognized for masterfully blending her academic training with impressionist and post impressionist styles. She had a strong sense of design and a bright palette. Her brushwork was bold and confident.

After marrying in 1925, Peterson devoted most of her time to painting floral subjects. The artist painted in her beautiful gardens at her estate in Ipswich, New York. In 1946, she wrote a how-to book on painting flowers—“Flower Painting”.

In her lifetime, Jane Peterson had over 80 one person shows. She was a Fellow at the prestigious National Academy of Design and a member of many art organizations, including The American Watercolor Society, The Allied Artists of America, The National Association of Women Artists and the Pen and Brush Club.

Jane Peterson died at an old age in1965.


Bibliography

Flower PaintingJane Peterson
1946 Leland Brent Publishing

Jane Peterson an American ArtistJ.J. Joseph Patricia Jobe Pierce
1981 Privately printed

Quote
I paint flowers because they are my friends and I love them. They have personalities just as animals, birds and people.Jane Peterson
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Women Artists of the Nineteenth Century


by
Armand Cabrera
I teach painting workshops a few times a year. Men and women attend my classes, although the majority of my students are women. Over and over again, women ask me this question:

Why don’t I write more historical articles on women painters?


I would like to offer my opinion and give a little historical background on women artists in the nineteenth century.


Most of the articles I write are about deceased artists. My focus is outdoor painting, which did not become an accepted genre till the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. At that time it was not acceptable for women to make a living as an artist. Even if women could overcome the social stigma of choosing art as a profession, they were only permitted a limited level of instruction— curtailing their chance of producing art at the level at which to compete with men of the era.


In doing research on women painters of the past, I have been confronted with many obstacles. Some are based on a societal bias toward women that still exists today. The biggest dilemma is a failure to represent good women painters in museums. In addition, there is a serious lack of literature about women who successfully overcame obstacles of their time to become the artists they strived to be. I hope as more and more women gain standing in academic circles, society will focus on women painters and bring these women’s stories to light.


As a person who struggles daily with the stigma of being an artist, I find these individual stories compelling. It is unfortunate that many of the texts that are written about women artists seem to carry with them a political agenda. Academically trained women painters seem to get short shrift by contemporary woman authors who want to look at them with disdain for continuing a style the authors consider male-centric.


Another setback in finding information on women artists is my own artistic bias. Because I have little interest in modern art, I find myself indifferent to many of the recognized women masters creating modern art. The style of paintings I am most drawn to are painters who work from life and are academically trained and embrace a sort of Academic Impressionism, if you will.

Many women have bypassed this particular style– which makes perfect sense historically. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th Century that women were allowed to enjoy the full benefit of classical art instruction. If a woman decided to become an artist, she would probably follow modern art, which had won acceptance.

By the early 20th Century, sales of academic work had plummeted—one more reason for young women artists not to embrace Academic or Impressionist styles. I know there were exceptions, but there is very little written documentation to support them.


I have spent the last 4+ years writing for the website, Outdoorpainting.com. Now, on my personal blog, I continue to try to ferret out a sufficient amount of information about women artists whose work I admire. It is frustrating, to say the least. There are very few books devoted solely to an individual woman’s work, which makes my search even tougher. I am given limited resources to research these stories and rely heavily on books, catalogs and magazine articles for my data. Going forward, I promise to include the stories of these talented women as often as I can.

Just for fun, can anyone name the nine women artists that are represented in this article?

I will post their names in a few days.

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