WARSAW — We have talked about Mary Cassatt due to her status as a world famous female artist. In this painting, right, she has depicted a Brussels Griffon dog sleeping in a blue Armchair with a little girl. You can view this painting done in 1878 at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Obviously the pet was welcome to jump on the furniture, a signature of the more relaxed paintings of Cassatt in her late work.
Cassatt was born in 1844 in Pennsylvania to a successful stockbroker owning an impressive French heritage. Her mother, however, had the most profound effect on daughter, Mary, and encouraged her successful venture into the art world. The family traveled extensively and while overseas Cassatt learned to speak German and French along with lessons in art. She was given art lessons and met men in the art world such as Degas and Pissarro who became her colleagues and advisors.
At the age of 15 she studied at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts but her parents became alarmed at some of the bohemian behavior of the male students, however Cassatt continued to pursue art as a career — over their objections. Eventually she grew weary of the patronizing attitude of the male students and teachers and began exploring studies, especially the old masters, on her own. With her mother as chaperone, she moved to Paris in 1866 and gained the license to copy work on display in the Louvre. In Paris she made many new friendships and was able to meet some of the formative personalities in art who were moving toward impressionism.
She struggled to gain acceptance into the famous Salon but then returned to the United States when War was eminent overseas. She did work that was lost in the Great Chicago Fire, and she became disillusioned over that loss, but the archbishop of Pittsburgh commissioned some work which helped her maintain her equilibrium. She returned to Paris and began a long friendship with Degas. Both remained single and never married. Her work gradually gained acceptance and accolades, especially her work depicting mothers and children. After 1886 Cassatt came into her own as an artist using her own variety of techniques and avoided the stereotyping of her work with an art movement.
The Brussels Griffon, the pet depicted in Cassatt’s painting, is, according to the AKC “like Velcro with four legs.” This dog is a toy dog breed and has high intelligence. This pet is very energetic and social and very easy to train. One drawback is that they like to be around their family so do not choose this pet if you are not home often or if there is no one home to help keep the pet entertained. They do not like to be lonely. This pet has a sturdy short body and is alert and holds him or herself in an erect posture that is almost human like. They like other pets and well-behaved children. They are rated as the 97th most popular breed in AKC rankings, and it is surprising they are not much higher on the list, but this is likely because many people are not aware of their attractive and advantageous attributes.
Next week: Another pet portrait.
Upcoming and Current Events:
- Warsaw City Hall Art Gallery, Grace College Students work on display. Open 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- Lakeland Art Gallery, Current Exhibit open 11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
- Wagon Wheel Theater Gallery, Andrew Tomasik on Exhibit.
For more information on topics in this column, please contact Darla McCammon at [email protected] or (574) 527-4044.