Mary Cassatt: Pastels and Drawings at Norton Museum

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Mary Cassatt: Pastels and Drawings at Norton Museum
Mary Cassatt, (American, 1844-1926): Portrait of Helen Sears, Daughter of Sarah Choate Sears, 1907. Pastel on paper, 26 3/4 by 22 ¼ inches. Gift of Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum, 2005.52.

WEST PALM BEACH, FL.- The Norton Museum of Art is pleased to announce Mary Cassatt: Pastels and Drawings, a carefully selected exhibition featuring nine works by one of America's most admired artists. Cassatt (1844-1926) was born near Pittsburgh and trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1866 she left home for Spain and France, where she settled, seldom returning to the United States during the course of her long life. She nonetheless cherished her American citizenship and is rightly considered one of this country's most important artistic personalities of the 19th century. Edgar Degas invited Cassatt to exhibit her work in the recently organized exhibitions of art by the so-called "Impressionists of Paris"--Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and their associates--and she enjoys the distinction of being the only American whose paintings, pastels, prints and drawings were included in those now-legendary exhibitions.

Visitors to the Norton Museum will have the opportunity to see nine works which reveal the full breadth and quality of Cassatt's art. Five of these are large and relatively finished pastels--portraits of friends and family members such as the splendid Portrait of Helen Sears which depicts the magnificently outfitted daughter of Sarah Choate Sears of Boston, a distinguished artist and collector in her own right who was one of Cassatt's best friends. Thanks to examples of this quality it is easy to see why Cassatt continually won awards and prizes for her portraits, whether in oils or pastels. Other large-scale works document Cassatt's unwavering interest in the subject of motherhood, as an artistic theme is both eternal and worldwide. Perhaps better and more fully than any other artist of her time, Cassatt captured the unique bond between mother and child as it is communicated through the surprisingly extensive repertoire of intimate postures, gestures, touches, and glances that define their daily interactions.

Drawing was the very essence of Cassatt's artistic preparation and professional practice and the exhibition features several examples which reveal the instinctive sensitivity of her response to women going about the business of their daily lives, an easy proficiency which caused Degas to complain that "no woman has the right to draw like that"--and this from a fellow artist who claimed to be her friend. One drawing is a preliminary sketch of two women in a loge (theatre box), truly the point of origin from which there would grow a composition of these same women enjoying a performance at the Paris Opera (one of the artist's most famous painted works). Another is much more intimate in that it shows a woman engaged in the daily ritual of her morning ablutions, a print that was subsequently enlivened with watercolor washes of great warmth and subtlety. Though few in number these works are various in technique and purpose; together they demonstrate the full range of the artist's graphic powers and reaffirm the position of Mary Cassatt as a uniquely talented American artist.

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