Mary Cassatt's Incredible Legacy in the Art World - Conclusion



Much had happened during the years Cassatt had absented herself from France. The Impressionistes were emerging as a tour de force, indeed, they had established their own exhibitions in blatant challenge to the Salon.

For that reason they were initially known as the Independentes, then the peculiar effect of the soft-focussed, somewhat imprecise style of brushwork brought them to the lasting term of Impressionism. Claude Monet exhibited his landscape Impression: Sunrise in the 1872 Paris Salon, which provoked the art critic Louis Leroy to coin the term "Impressionism" in a satiric review published in Le Charivari.



Cassatt was delighted to find that one woman preceded her in the beginnings of this new and exciting movement, in the talented form of Berthe Morisot. Morisot, who exhibited the grand sum of nine works in the first Impressioniste show, did turn out to be conventional in one regard, marriage. She spent part of each year with the Manet family at Fécamp, and soon declared her intent to marry Eugène, Edouard Manet’s brother.


Paris in the late 1870's was having a renaissance of it's own, Napoleon III had ordered much reconstruction and the famed Grands Boulevards were introduced. The cultured now paraded ostentatiously along Haussmann, Le Champs, and attended the new Opéra Garnier. Commerce had room to soar, tourists flocked, artists prospered. The Belle Époque had begun, and cultural modernity arrived to move it swiftly forward.


Cassatt had been doing portraits for some time, she was much sought after by Americans traveling abroad in the years following the Civil War. These bought baguettes and paid the rent, but did not satisfy other, deeper needs. In 1877, an admired acquaintance and fellow painter, Edgar Degas, invited her to join the growing ranks and exhibitions of the Impressionistes.

Cassatt wrote, "I accepted with joy. Now I could work with absolute independence without considering the opinion of a jury. I had already recognized who were my true masters. I admired Manet, Courbet, and Degas.

"I took leave of conventional art. I began to live.” A burgeoning and close friendship with Degas began, which lasted right up until Degas’ death in 1917. Both Degas and their outrageous peer Auguste Renoir greatly influenced her style of painting, and encouraged her to a more free and liberated manner and use of color.


Mary Cassatt, Girl Arranging Hair


That signature 'unfocussed' perspective suited her themes, which often included children, pets and gardens. Degas would later say that for him, the influence was mutual. Once, on seeing some of Mary’s work, Degas quietly admitted that he would not have believed en principe that a woman could draw so well.

While a tremendously social creature, Cassatt did not openly pursue relationships with men. It has been proposed that she and Edgar Degas entertained more than a close friendship. Good for them if they did, but there is seemingly no proof either way, and TMZ was not about to make up our minds for us.

She did have a healthy self respect, which certainly served her well in the patriarchal art world of that era. It was a deliberate choice on her part not to marry, although she encouraged her nieces and nephews to visit, and to model. She adored children, as is unmistakably clear in her prolific portrayal of them.

Mary Cassatt-Young Woman Reading

Mary Cassatt-Young Woman Reading

Mary Cassatt, The Mandolin Player, 1868.

Mary Cassatt, The Mandolin Player, 1868.

Cassatt would later say that there was "no teaching" at the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts. She was tremendously impatient with the snail's pace of the instructors, and understandably put out that women were not afforded the same creative opportunities as their male counterparts.

Her parents were distinctly unenthused about her concentration on art as it was, and patently hoped it was all a flight of fancy. They hoped in vain. Those years had not been easy for anyone, the Civil War raged on and Pennsylvania was right in the thick of things. Fed up with what she saw as the arrogant patronization of both teachers and fellow students, Cassatt left the Academy to pursue her own course of study, one which she structured around the Old Masters.

By 1866 Cassatt was ready for more challenging pursuits, and had badgered her father into agreeing that she might undertake study in Paris ~ with the mandatory accompaniment of her mother and family friends to provide the obligatory chaperonage. Off they sailed, leaving behind the ravages and aftermath of the violent North South conflict. Cassatt was twenty two.



What an art world to be discovered, to be relished, in the Paris of 1866 ... the prospects must have been overwhelmingly exciting for the young American painter. She did not lack confidence, but knew she wanted for the necessary classical skills and techniques that would bring her work to life.

Regarding self-portraits, she made a decidely unusual choice via her 1878 painting Woman in Black at the Opera. It depicts a woman, lately presumed to be the artist herself, seated in an opera box, apparently alone, leaning forward to peer through opera glasses at the other world of the stage. 



It was a bold and revolutionary perspective for a woman artist.




Austria: Vienna: Getting Close to Vienna



Come to The Political Carnival and see the world every night! (or almost)

This video about Vienna is from a series of travel videos made by

From YouTube

Published on Jun 16, 2013
Get close to Vienna, Austria! From riding one of the world's oldest Ferris wheels to planning revolutions in cafés, this travelogue shows you the spirit of Vienna and how to get the most out of your trip.

This travel series brings you closer to the cities you thought you knew. You'll discover the local vibe while meeting and making friends with locals, going on an adventure and getting the most out of your trip and destination.


Cheapo Travel: How to stay for free around the world



Sailboat image: Travel and Tell/a>/ Volunteer to Travel the World by Sailboat

One of the most common comments I get from readers is that they would like to travel, but they just can't afford it. Hey, I get it. Budgets are tight. But if you really, really yearn to see the world, there are ways to do it. You often have to be dedicated. And maybe put in…


Mary Cassatt, Part Deux of the artistes' Fascinating Art History

Cassatt, The Pensive Reader

Cassatt, The Pensive Reader

Continued from Part One.

Cassatt became bosom bows with another talented young American, Elizabeth Jane Gardner, who was actually the first woman to ever exhibit at the Paris Salon. They often studied and painted together in the Louvre, which served as the sort of social and artistic venue denied them by the male-dominated, avant garde Paris cafés.

Soon after she got the nod from the Salon, it became apparent that yet another schism was taking place in the larger Paris art community. Visionaries Edouard Manet and Realist movement patron Gustave Courbet had started to pull away from traditional values, always a controversial path. This particular period was marked by works that evinced a new level of social commentary, the American Civil War was by no means the only conflict of note. Courbet was daring.

Cassatt, Sketch for 'Francoise in a Round-Backed Chair, Reading

Cassatt, Sketch for 'Francoise in a Round-Backed Chair, Reading

One of his works would not be exhibited until over one hundred years after their origin, the female genitalia-centric Origin of the World. By 1870 the signs of the upcoming Paris Commune were unmistakable, and Cassatt returned to the States for a time. She was tremendously creative, but by no means a radical. Her work remained quite conservative despite the influence of her less traditional teachers and peers. Alas, pauvre Courbet would live the last years of his life in exile in Switzerland.


Cassatt, Trying On Dress

Cassatt was not pleased to be back in Pennsylvania in the summer of 1870. One cannot spend their days traversing the cobblestones of Montparnasse and the Rue de Rivoli one month, and happily downgrade to Altoona the next.

Cassatt's work, even though placed in well-known New York galleries, was not leaping off the walls and into the homes of those who dictated the art preferences and market of the day.

Her father rather pettily showed his disapproval by refusing to bankroll her art supplies, and grudgingly providing room and board alone.

His daughter showed none of the expected interest in finding a suitable young man to marry, nor in abandoning her 'hobby' and settling down. She counted the days and weeks until she could return to her chosen home of Europe. An opportunity arose to live in Chicago and work, and she availed herself of it without hesitation. Tragically, the Great Fire of 1871 robbed her (and the world) of many of her early works.

Girl With a Banjo, by Cassatt

Girl With a Banjo, by Cassatt

It was by no means the greatest time to be an American living in the United States. Carpet Baggers headed South, slaves headed North, and politics was everywhere. Cassatt despaired of being crative in that atmosphere, and became so discouraged she threatened to quit painting. She was rescued however, by a commission of the Bishop of Pittsburgh. He asked her to set herself up in Parma and copy key Correggio works for the Church (a common practice, the 'reproduction' of Masters' paintings by young, cheap talent).

Cassatt sailed off with delight, in the last months of 1871. She spent eight extremely happy and productive months there, then moved on to Spain and studied at the Prado. Velázquez, Murillo, Titian, and Rubens were all available for her eager eyes and brushes. She added Spanish to her growing list of fluent languages, merrily visited Paris, Belgium and Rome, and became more and more fleshed out as an artist.


Mary Cassatt The Conversation 1896

Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla was her first Spanish-influenced work, but by the time she decided to move permanently back to Paris her closest friend and most frequent model arrived to join her ~ her beloved sister, Lydia Cassatt.

In 1874, the two sisters established a studio and an apartment in Paris, and entered the artistic life of ex-pats with great fervor. Both young women were frank to the point of rudeness, and never held back an opinion. For Mary, this offered her the rare freedom of not being overly concerned with critics or what her artistic peers thought of her.

An enviable level of independence, that. Later in life it was that brutal honesty that spurred her to describe Monet's Water Lilies as 'those glorified wallpapers', and to deem Picasso 'dreadful'. It's a shame that she and Julia Childe were not of an age, I feel that they would have been fast friends.

To be continued ...


What if... ?


what if

There is so much bad news being reported lately, and so many of us need a break. Please add your own What Ifs in Comments. My list is certainly not complete, so feel free to pile on. Take a moment to fantasize. What if...?

What if...

The news media reported accurately, objectively, and without bias?

People were rewarded for their competence, but not for incompetence?

People in positions of authority refused to succumb to desire for power and instead made fairness, compassion, kindness, objectivity, and good judgment their goals?

Everyone simply acted nice to each other?

People smiled and laughed more?

The color of your skin didn't matter at all? Ever again?

Your sexual orientation didn't matter at all?

Scared white people who will inevitably become a minority didn't care about that at all?

Religious groups didn't try to impose their beliefs on others?

Atheists were embraced by those of faith? What if an atheist became our next president?

Lethal weapons ceased to exist?

Lies were obsolete?

Blame were placed only on those who truly deserved it?

Baseless smear campaigns ceased to exist?

Women were treated/paid as equals?

Women were allowed to make their own decisions without men imposing their will on them?

Rapists ceased to exist?

Children were always loved and never abused or mistreated?

People stopped using and discarding other people?

There were less greed and more altruism?

Businesses cared about their customers enough to keep air and water clean and make the health and welfare of others a priority?

Terrorist groups looked at themselves in the mirror, did a double take, and started laughing? And then morphed into philanthropic and human rights groups?

Everyone old enough to vote could, and did?

Hunger was a thing of the past, food and water were plentiful?

All food was good for us and we could eat/drink as much of anything as we wanted without any negative consequences?

There were no diseases or extreme physical pain? What if everyone passed away peacefully when their time came?

Fear was rare?

Drugs (and drug ads!) were unnecessary?

Mental illness were as easily recognized and as easily treated as the common cold is?

All violence stopped immediately? Would all those angry people with guns and knives suddenly look sheepish and start cracking up? And then become reasonable, mentally stable, and friendly? What if that happened?

Opposing parties came together to work out the nation's problems instead of resisting or ignoring obvious solutions?

Everyone followed the most important rules of improvisational comedy and listened carefully to one another, then defaulted to the premise "Yes, and..." instead of, "No"?

Communicating were a priority? And people were good at it?

Animals were never mistreated or abused?

Everyone had a sense of humor?

People stopped using the words "folks" and "gentleman" inappropriately? Criminals are not gentlemen. Folks is a friendly word; use it that way.

People were hired to do what they loved, and then they were paid well to do it?

People habitually made other people feel important and accepted?

Computers worked properly?

There was no small print?

Old people were made to feel important and beautiful?

What if any of these questions could be answered without being prefaced by, "Yeah, right..."?

random thoughts smaller


The More Things Change...



...the more they stay the same.

The photographer who shot that iconic photo at the top of the page was arrested last night in Ferguson, MO. Scott Olsen, a photojournalist for Getty Images, has brought the reality of what's happening in Ferguson to the rest of the world via his amazing photos, many of which can be seen here. 

Apparently, the police didn't want Olsen doing his job where he was standing- as if they wanted him to do his job at all..

Scott Olsen wasn't the only member of the media arrested last night. We know of at least two others.

Intercept reporter Ryan Devereaux was arrested this morning while on the ground covering the protests in Ferguson, Mo. According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson, who witnessed the apprehension, Ryan and a German reporter he was with were both taken into custody by members of a police tactical team. They were handcuffed and placed in a wagon, and Carson was told they were being taken to St. Louis County jail.


Update: Johnson and his colleagues did not take the “proper action.” Ryan spent the night in St. Louis County Jail, where he remains this morning. According to officials there, he is due to be released without charge—the initial pretext for his detention was “failure to disperse”—within the hour. Ryan and Lukas Hermsmeier, a reporter for the German newspaper De Bild, were both apprehended last night—and shot with beanbags and rubber bullets—while attempting to return to their car after a night of reporting. When they were shot at, they had their hands raised in the air and were shouting, “Press! Press! Press!”

Second Update: Ryan has been released. And a correction: While the situation is still not entirely clear, I believe now that both Ryan and Hermsmeier were hit with beanbags, but not rubber bullets as reported above. Also, I’ve updated the post and the headline to reflect the fact that Ryan was in fact arrested and jailed overnight, not merely detained.

Ryan Devereaux's Twitter stream from last night tells the story of a police force in over their heads and seemingly out of control.




And finally,

That was Ryan Devereaux's last tweet last night. This morning, he tweeted this:

Aside from the Twitter play-by-play accounts, you might be wondering what year this was.

When I heard that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was sending in the National Guard, the first place my mind went was back to Richard Nixon and Kent State.  In his 2008 book Nixonland, Rick Perlstein wrote about the rise of the militarized police.

Rick has a new book out, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, and he joined me on the show this morning to talk about it.  (Since I only got the book yesterday, I haven't had time to read it. Rick promised to return after I do for another conversation.) Obviously, we spoke about the parallels between the two eras.

And in hour two, GottaLaff joined in for our weekly segment, the Gliberal Goddesses. Obviously there was much to talk about today, most of it Ferguson related. But I had a few things to get off my chest too...

Now I'm battling the beginnings of a cold/fluish kind of thing. So it's off to get some rest. Tomorrow, Susie Madrak and Thomas Frank join me... Radio or Not!


RIP Senator Jim Jeffords, of Vermont, who passed away this week


Gannett News Service phote

And he passed on AS an Independent … The GOP let Jeffords wave buh-bye. The party left him.

Thom Hartmann had some interesting things to reveal! (And a Vermonter, sigh, but Bernie covers all ills.)

Jeffords had always been a Rhino (surprisingly thick on the ground up here in New England); in fact our wise and politically active Gramma Bea … if one has thoughts that our souls return, or somehow meet again after death … I can count on her giving him all kinds of hell in the proverbial 'meeting again' phase.

Photo, the AP.

Photo, the AP.

It's hard to imagine a more principled New Englander member of Congress than Jeffords. He was a dying breed: men and women who serve their country well and can see both sides.

From The Washington Post.

James M. Jeffords, the maverick Vermont politician who in 2001 gave Democrats a short-lived majority in the U.S. Senate when he left the Republican Party and declared himself an independent, died Aug. 18 at a retirement residence in Washington. He was 80.

from left, former U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. James Jeffords, R-Vt., U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, sit behind Calvin Coolidge impersonator Jim Cooke.

from left, former U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. James Jeffords, R-Vt., U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, sit behind Calvin Coolidge impersonator Jim Cooke.

Diane Derby, a former aide, confirmed his death but said she did not know the immediate cause. Mr. Jeffords declined to seek reelection to the Senate in 2006, citing his wife’s and his own declining health, and was succeeded by Bernie Sanders, his state’s longtime representative-at-large, who also is an independent.

A former Vermont state senator and attorney general, Mr. Jeffords served seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before winning election to the Senate in 1988. He established himself as a moderate-to-liberal Republican, a reflection of his state’s political tendencies, and frequently voted with Democrats on matters such as health care, taxes, abortion, gay rights, gun control and the environment.

He was but 80 years old to have touched the number of people Jeffords did.

U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., waves to members of the Legislature at the Statehouse in Montpelier in this Jan. 5, 2006, with his wife, Elizabeth “Liz” Daley Jeffords. (Photo- TOBY TALBOT:AP )

U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., waves to members of the Legislature at the Statehouse in Montpelier in this Jan. 5, 2006, with his wife, Elizabeth “Liz” Daley Jeffords. (Photo- TOBY TALBOT:AP )