Mary Cassatt

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9780060133481: Mary Cassatt

Born into the male dominated world of the nineteenth century, middle-class Pennsylvania society, Mary Cassatt became a feminist and turned what was a lady’s accomplishment into a profession becoming a radical painter, working in Paris and exhibiting with the Impressionists. Degas, Manet, Gauguin and Pissaro, amongst others, knew and admired her work, and yet, since her death in 1926, Cassatt has received little critical acclaim, and her importance, both personally as an individual artist and historically within the evolution of the Impressionist movement, has largely been obscured. The efforts of the feminist movement in the last decade, however, have stimulated long-deserved public and critical interest in Mary Cassatt.

Griselda Pollock examines the reasons for the unjust neglect of one of America’s outstanding artistic talents. She gauges the wide variety of influences which shaped her career, from her commitment to her early oils and pastels and her study of the techniques of the Old Masters, her exploration of modernist ideas to her later interest in the methods of Japanese print-making. Despite the tremendous diversity of her sources, Cassatt pursued one theme - the depiction of women in all phases of their lives - defending the portrayal of maternity and womanhood from the charges of sentimentality. Pollock argues that through her oeuvre, Cassatt, a woman painting women, reworked with increasing power and insight the traditional iconography of woman as Madonna, as Venus and as Eve, questioning its basic assumptions and transforming women from objects to be looked at to people to be understood.

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Review:

The American painter Mary Cassatt, who rubbed elbows with the impressionists over a century ago, looks ready for a boom, with a big traveling exhibition of her work touring the Chicago Art Institute, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts in 1998-1999. It would be difficult to find a more intelligent introductory guide than this one by feminist art critic Griselda Pollock, who teaches social and critical histories at the University of Leeds, England. Pollock's most familiar previous book is Old Mistresses: Women, Art, and Ideology, and she scotches the widespread idea of Mary Cassatt as a soft and wimpy painter of babies, similar to Auguste Renoir, who is also victimized by critics today for his soft female images. Instead, Pollock sees Cassatt as the "painter of modern women" who was unafraid of such tough artistic influences as Degas, Courbet, and Manet. In this clearly written guide, Cassatt's courage shines through, but also her variety. Readers may begin to look at the women and children in the paintings and discern new expressions in their faces, not just the sweet sentiment that has usually been interpreted therein. This is a revelatory book to accompany what looks likely to be a revelatory exhibit. --Benjamin Ivry

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Griselda Pollock
Published by Harper and Row (1980)
ISBN 10: 0060133481 ISBN 13: 9780060133481
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Book Description Harper and Row, 1980. Textbook Binding. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0060133481

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