A celebrated member of the French Impressionists, Pennsylvania-born Mary Cassatt challenged the conventional expectations of Philadelphia’s elite. In Paris, Cassatt committed herself to a career as a professional artist and made the social, intellectual, and working lives of modern women a core subject of her prints, paintings, and pastels. Though recognized in her lifetime for her intimate depictions of women and children, Cassatt has yet to be appreciated for her serious engagement with the realities of gender and labor in her portrayal of other traditionally feminine activities, such as embroidery, reading, or making social appearances.
These depictions lie at the heart of Mary Cassatt at Work, which will present over 130 diverse works that follow the artist’s evolving practice and demonstrate her interest in the “serious work” of artmaking. The exhibition will present new findings about the materials she used and her processes—which were advanced for her era—as it coincides with a detailed technical study of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s significant Cassatt holdings.
Mary Cassatt at Work is the first major showing of the artist’s oeuvre since 1998–99. By considering her professionalism, her biography, and the wider Parisian world she inhabited, a richer and more complex picture of Cassatt develops, inviting contemporary conversations about gender, work, and artistic agency.
Mary Cassatt at Work is made possible by Donna and Marvin Schwartz, with Waqas Wajahat, in honor of Timothy Rub, The Leslie Miller and Richard Worley Foundation, Robbi and Bruce Toll, and an anonymous donor. Funding for the catalogue is generously provided by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.
Jennifer Thompson, Gloria and Jack Drosdick Curator of European Painting and Sculpture and Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection; and Laurel Garber, Park Family Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings