Mary Cassatt was the “new woman” of the 19th century – a highly-trained artist who never married. During the Impressionist Period, when female artists were generally dismissed with contempt and confined to painting indoors, she competed admirably with established male artists. She even developed a close friendship with Edgar Degas while living and working in France, and the two became close collaborators for a long period of time.
By 1866, Cassatt had established herself as a uniquely skilled painter of mothers and children. Many believe Children Playing on the Beach was a tribute to her sister, who died in 1882, and was perhaps inspired by a trip she took with her ailing mother to Spain, where the two sought the healing power of the seaside climate. Whatever the muse, this work was clearly special to her.
I chose to copy Children Playing on the Beach because for many reasons it’s also very special to me. It was a favorite of my late husband, who never got to see it in person, and now that it’s been relocated to Gallery #85, I simply couldn’t resist.
I also love this work because it’s one of the best demonstrations of Cassatt’s superior skill with color and process. Palettes were quite limited at that time, and yet she’s able to bring out so many shades that the painting almost appears to echo contrasting moods. For example, the subtle blues of the ocean and sky effectively convey the feeling of cool, possibly dreary weather over the sea, while the vivid blues she uses in the girls’ dresses evoke a feeling of warmth, sunshine and happiness. She was an absolute genius with color.
As most paints do, Mary Cassatt’s have aged over time. I could have chosen to copy Children Playing on the Beach using my interpretation of the colors she used in 1884, but instead I chose to create a copy as close to the current version as possible. As always, it will be a challenge because matching color is one of the most difficult tasks a copyist faces.
I’ve learned a great deal from Mary Cassatt. Her remarkable use of color as well as her ability to manipulate brush and paint to create beautiful strokes has been inspirational. Join me in Gallery #85 where I’ll be working on copying another wonderful Impressionist painting The Harbor at Lorient, 1869, by Berthe Morisot.