In 1875, after being rejected by the official Paris Salon, where she had been exhibiting her paintings, American artist Mary Cassatt (1844–1926) accepted Edgar Degas’s (1834–1917) invitation to join the Impressionist group. Cassatt created her earliest surviving prints in 1878, a year before she first showed with the Impressionists. While she favored traditional subjects—women with children and female figures in repose predominate—her approach to printmaking was audacious. Cassatt experimented with a variety of print media, resolutely pursuing the effects she desired. She frequently repeated compositions with only minor changes, or continuously reworked her copper printing plates. At other times, she abandoned her project after pulling just a few impressions. On rare occasions, she aggressively burnished the metal surface on which she was busy in an effort to erase her mistakes, or printed from plates that reveal signs of prior use.
Spanning twenty years of Cassatt’s career as a printmaker, from 1878 to 1898, this exhibition documents her first tentative steps in the medium and culminates with her highly accomplished and technically dazzling color prints. The arrangement unfolds chronologically, allowing the viewer to follow how the artist grappled with subjects, compositions, and an array of printing methods. All the pieces on exhibition are drawn from the Print Collection, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
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This exhibition has been made possible by the continuing generosity of Miriam and Ira D. Wallach.
Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman.