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Mary Cassatt: A Life Hardcover – Mar 1994

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Villard Books (Mar. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039458497X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394584973
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 17.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,493,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
Even though Mary Cassatt left her homeland for Paris, even though she chose to spend her days in the bohemian world of painters and models, dealers and collectors, there remained in her the sturdy thread of her ancestry—Revolutionary War heroes, Pennsylvania landed gentry, and earnest public servants. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 July 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By bookworm on 25 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Based on the great review above I decided to buy this book to learn more about the artist. I was very disappointed to find that all the illustrations are shown in black and white. Such a large part of the learning and appreciation comes from seeing the paintings as they should be - in colour. I am still deciding whether to keep the book or not. It may prove to be the definitive biography for our generation, as claimed on the back cover, but I do feel disappointed and less motivated to read it!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 19 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Thorough, well researched study of the artist Mary Cassatt. 26 Mar. 2002
By simmons - Published on Amazon.com
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.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Getting to Know Mary in All Her Intricacies 25 Jun. 2001
By Sandy Frazier - Published on Amazon.com
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.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A MUST READ for all interested in art during the late 1800 12 Jun. 2000
By Deborah J. Chapin - Published on Amazon.com
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
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The Essential Cassatt Resource 21 July 2006
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
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. Much to her own disgust, she let herself be led into painting the mother and child paintings that we all love so much by the marketing plans of her gallery . . . rather than her own passion. Although profitable, this path was in her view a diversion from her better work. Paradoxically, Ms. Cassatt's two bothers were even more famous in their day than she was . . . even though we have barely heard of them today. Her older brother was, in fact, one of the most important railroad developers in the eastern United States. As head of the Pennsylvania Railroad, he directed the development of the railroad tunnel into Manhattan.

Ms. Mathews does a nice job of balancing what is known from what is not . . . while pointing out what the possibilities were. As a result of this biography, I felt I knew the real Mary Cassatt for the first time.

Bravo, Ms. Mathews!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Getting to know Mary Cassatt 24 Oct. 2007
By Rita Campbell - Published on Amazon.com
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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