A woman in a man’s world, Mary Stevenson Cassatt was the most well-known female representative of the Impressionist movement and is the only female painter present in the Collection.
Mary was born in Pennsylvania (USA) in 1844 and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. However, it was in Europe – especially France, where she moved during her twenties – that she spent most of her life. She learned to paint with Jean-Léon Gérôme, copying the work of great artists and drawing on a regular basis.
In 1868, she exhibited her first work at the Salon. She also spent time in Italy, Spain, Holland and Belgium, where she studied the paintings of the Old Masters. During the late 1870s, she was invited by Edgar Degas to join a group of independent artists, who later became known as the Impressionists, and she participated in four of the eight exhibitions organised by the group.
Under the influence of her colleagues, especially Manet and Degas, who became her friend and mentor, she was able to improve her technique and gain experience in engraving. Family and motherhood were among her preferred themes and she produced numerous works inspired by them. The painting The Stocking was acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian in 1919, prior to the painter’s death in 1926.
Mary played an important role in compiling several American public and private collections, advising on the purchase of a large number of works. She was also a key figure in the suffragette movement, raising women’s status in the arts and using her artistic influence to support women’s militancy, which won them the right to vote in the United States while the artist was still alive.
A Collection of Stories
On a weekly basis, we shared a story around Calouste Gulbenkian’s collection. This section was created in 2020, which is why the articles refer to the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum collection as the Founder’s Collection.Other stories