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Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas

February 12–May 11, 2003

This installation of six oil paintings and a pastel by Mary Cassatt complements the museum’s current special exhibition Degas and the Dance. Drawn from the museum’s collection, these works reveal the intersection—both personal and artistic—of these two great Impressionist painters.

Born in Allegheny City (now a part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, Cassatt attended classes in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before sailing to Europe in 1866 and settling in Paris. When Edgar Degas saw her work exhibited at the French Salon in 1874 he exclaimed, “Here is someone who feels as I do.“ A few years later, Degas invited Cassatt to participate in the fourth Impressionist exhibition, and a lifelong friendship began.

Their friendship was due in part to their like-minded approach to painting. Both artists shared an interest in draftsmanship and vibrant color, particularly as conveyed by the medium of pastel. Like Degas, Cassatt excelled in drawing portraits and scenes from contemporary life, usually portraying the women and children of her own domestic world.

The artists’ similar interests and mutual appreciation comes to light with Cassatt's In the Loge (c. 1879). This painting, bought by Degas, depicts a young woman seated in a box at the Paris Opera—the very place where Degas studied dancers for his paintings. Also included in the installation are a number of works that reveal Cassatt's interest in the mother-child relationship.

Main Building


Kathleen A. Foster, Curator of American Art; Jennifer Thompson, Kress Fellow, European Painting before 1900

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