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Mary Cassatt: A Life Paperback – September 10, 1998


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Mary Cassatt: A Life + Mary Cassatt: Paintings and Prints + Mary Cassatt: Painter of Modern Women (World of Art)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Trade edition (September 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300077548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300077544
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At the age of 21, Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) disregarded the opposition of her wealthy Pennsylvania family and went to France to study painting, remaining there for most of her life. In this admirable biography, art historian Mathews ( Mary Cassatt: The Color Prints ) presents a compelling portrait of this contradictory woman. Cassatt joined the impressionists but always lived as a well-bred lady, never as a bohemian; gained fame with sensitive portraits of mothers and children yet never married or had children; and was frequently visited by family and friends from the U.S. who became caught up in her brilliant career in spite of her difficult and outspoken personality. Concentrating on Cassatt's devotion to her work and her often stormy personal relationships, including her friendships with the irascible painter Edgar Degas as well as with numerous wealthy Americans, some of whom she helped to acquire collections of impressionist art, Mathews treats Cassatt as a thoroughly professional painter, and shows how this single-minded and independent woman set her sights on high artistic goals and spent her life attaining them. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Although several monographs and many shorter works have been written about America's expatriate artist Mary Cassatt, this most recent effort by Nancy Mowll Mathews (art history, Williams Coll.) is an evenly written, well-documented, and sympathetic--but not patronizing--biography that should be acquired by most libraries. Though very few of the many illustrations will be new to Cassatt devotees, the final chapter--"The Historical Cassatt"--provides an insightful overview of the various popular and scholarly interpretations of Cassatt the feminist/individualist vs. Cassatt the genteel woman/artist. Recommended for public and academic libraries. (Index not seen.)-- P. Steven Thomas, Sangamon State Univ., Springfield, Ill.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This is an enjoyable, and thoroughly researched biography about her.
Rita Campbell
She mixes facts, anecdotes and reflections on society in such an easily readable way that even her suppositions could be viewed as gospel truth.
simmons
Art history is so well served by this book and women need to meet Mary Cassatt the same way that Nancy Mowll Mathews has found her.
Sherry

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By simmons on March 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ms. Mathews presents Mary Cassatt's entire life and incorporates little known details about her travels and associations with friends and family. She mixes facts, anecdotes and reflections on society in such an easily readable way that even her suppositions could be viewed as gospel truth. The (hardcover) book is well illustrated with historical photographs and black and white illustrations of Cassatt's and her contemporaries' work. The author makes numerous points regarding what motivated and inspired the artist at different periods in her life. She gives very specific illustrations of how difficult life could be for a woman of Cassatt's time. Additionally, the author admits Mary Cassatt's opinions and outspokenness often got her in trouble with friends. Those friendships she was able to maintain were based on a mutual, professional respect. Included is a chapter about the artist's work in an historical context. Her work was viewed differently by critics, and herself, at different times. Nancy Mowell Mathews book gives so much life to the artist's character, I wouldn't be surprised if it's made into a movie! It is certainly motivation for any working woman.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Frazier on June 24, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nancy Mathews gets to the point... her book is wonderfully researched and weaves through the intricately woven fabric of Cassatt's life; yet she doesn't bog you down with too many details. I enjoyed every page of this book and felt like I got an honest portrayal of the woman, her art and the reasons behind the decisions she made. I especially thank Nancy for her sympathetic yet analytical overview of the many misunderstandings that have been perpetuated year after year about Cassatt and other women artists in the late 19th/early 20th century. I'm glad to know the truth.
This biography left me in awe of Mary Cassatt who was obviously a focused, smart and privileged person at a time when many male artists were barely making ends meet. She was unafraid of the establishment, outspoken and determined, not to mention a smart businesswoman. The only thing I disagree with is when the author states that at 51 Mary Cassatt "was faced with an unusually hard burden of loneliness." Mary Cassatt was blessed with many friends, family and admirers and moved in a great many social circles all her life. She rarely veered from her chosen path. But the greatest lesson we can learn from Ms. Cassatt is to stay focused on our life purpose and to honour our own lives with the best we can give of ourselves.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Deborah J. Chapin on June 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
I highly recommend as a MUST READ this book Mary Cassatt: A Life. by Nancy Mowll Mathews. The book is a fascinating not only of the life of Mary Cassatt but for the insights on the art circles, family life and historical context of these artists and the times in which they lived. Mary Cassatt was a mover and shaker of her times, with good social skills and a mind for business. You travel with her life and times as if you were present. From my perspective I am so happy that I happened on this book because it puts alot of bits and pieces together on these artists.
Deborah Chapin
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Despite Mary Cassatt's continuing resurgence in popularity as an artist since the 1970s, prior to this volume her biographers had missed the boat. As a result, most people who admire Ms. Cassatt's wonderful paintings are filled with inaccurate beliefs about her life and the condition of women artists during her life. If you care enough about her work to want to correct those mistaken beliefs, please do read this volume. You'll also learn even more if you follow that reading by also looking at Cassatt: A Retrospective by the same author, Nancy Mowll Mathews.

Mary Cassatt is an elusive subject for several reasons. She didn't write many letters, often didn't care what others thought of her and wasn't written about by others nearly as often as she deserved. In addition, her role as an iconic woman pioneer in the Impressionist movement has caused many to "interpret" her life to explain other agendas.

The reality is much more interesting than the misinformation. At a young age, she was exposed to the leading cultural events in Europe . . . a rarity for any American. Her mother was probably one of the most intelligent and capable women of her generation anywhere. The family moved around constantly in rented homes to stay close to the various children and business opportunities. Only after her father's death was Ms. Cassatt able to purchase and enjoy a home. Contrary to popular belief today, it wasn't at all unusual for women to pursue painting careers. In fact, the Louvre was full of American women painting copies of the masterpieces there. What was unusual was for a woman to be viewed as the peer of the best male artists. Ms. Cassatt clearly reached that pinnacle during her Impressionist years and beyond.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rita Campbell on October 23, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mary Cassatt is a true American treasure. This is an enjoyable, and thoroughly researched biography about her. It is not only well-written, but it is full of wonderful and historic photos of Mary, her paintings, her friends, and her family throughout her life.
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