Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Favorite Artists -- #1 Mary Cassatt

Someone remarked that some of my paintings reminded them of Mary Cassatt, the renowned painter (1844-1926). I was flattered, of course. She’s probably one of my all time favorite artists. Our styles are different, but has she influenced my work? I’ll let you be the judge as I share painting’s of Cassatt alongside my own (a daring risk).

Our personalities certainly have many things in common: Cassatt was feisty, independent, restless, and determined. She was impatient with conventional teaching and accepted styles (I’m always bucking the system and the traditions). She formed her own opinions and kept her eye out for fresh opportunities; always receptive to new approaches. These attitudes brought her opposition and struggle for recognition from the “art establishment.”

Cassatt was more inclined to paint women and children than men. Dega was one of her favorite artists and he inspired her (as he does me). She wrote of him:

“How well I remember nearly 40 years ago, seeing for the first time Degas’ pastels in the window of a picture dealer on the Boulevard Haussmann. I used to go and flatten my nose against the window and absorb all I could of his art. It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it.”

Cassatt grew as an artist and began making on-the-spot sketches and studies which gave her finished oil paintings the same spontanaeity as the quick sketches done in pastel and drypoint. She had a freedom of color and brush stroke that added energy to her artwork, but she was always careful with detail where it mattered most.

Her endearing and enduring portraits drew me in and inspired my own paintings. I’ve discovered that without people, my landscapes seem hollow and empty. People give life to life. They are the reason for nature itself. I’m at my best when a painting includes people, even if the painting’s message is one of saddness or darkness.

Next blog, I’ll discuss another favorite artist and include a peak at my latest works-in-progress.