edited by Nancy Mowll Mathews and Pierre Curie. Yale University Press, July 2018. 176 p. Ill. ISBN 9780300236521 (h/c), $45.00.
Reviewed March 2019
Mary Cassatt: An American Impressionist in Paris is the title of an exhibition which opened in spring 2018 at the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. The exhibition and catalog intend to reintroduce Mary Cassatt to the museum-going audience in France, where the artist’s fame has been eclipsed by her French Impressionist counterparts. Although Cassatt’s name is well known to American museum visitors, the authors contend that she has been largely forgotten in the French cultural consciousness.
Written primarily by Nancy Mowll Mathews (curator and lecturer at Williams College and independent scholar), the catalog sets out to explore the intersecting identities encapsulated by the term: American woman artist. As an artist who spent almost her entire adulthood living and working in France, Cassatt is presented as an emblem of American and French cultural interchange during the fin-de-siècle period.
Divided into six chapters interspersed with quality reproductions of the exhibited works and additional illustrations, the catalog begins with an exploration of Cassatt’s time in Paris and her introduction to and acceptance into the Impressionists’ ranks. The focus then pivots to the social sphere she inhabited and the role she played as a champion of both French and Impressionist art, influencing the collecting habits of figures who would contribute to the formation of major American art collections. The final three chapters focus on the themes and techniques that Cassatt explored in her years as a mature working artist. Two additional essays included in the book examine the relationship between Cassatt and art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel and the broader landscape of American women artists in Paris.
The artworks selected for the exhibition and catalog represent a wide range of subject matter and techniques employed by the artist over the course of her career. Scholars of Cassatt, Impressionism, and feminist art history may find little new information or analysis of the artist’s oeuvre in this catalogue, but for students unfamiliar with Cassatt or the formation of Impressionism this book can act as introduction to the artist and her circle. Recommended for all libraries that collect widely in the areas of Impressionism or women artists and for libraries looking for an introductory text on this pioneering American artist.