Painting With The girls 107
April 16, 2016
Day 107 (259 days to go)
Mary Cassat’s father had always been against the idea of her becoming a painter or studying abroad. He expected his daughter to at least stay nearby.
When Mary turned twenty-one, she began planning her next steps. She wanted to become a painter, and for that she needed to go to Paris and get instruction from a recognized master. The family agreed Mary’s mother was going to accompany her to Paris. The two applied for passports in 1865, and arrived in Paris just in time for the Christmas season. Paris was decorated and festive and the two of them participated in the celebrations given by the American consul and American Chapel.
Mary’s mother probably stayed until the summer until Mary was in a familiar routine and she was confortable with the trusted family she was boarding with.
Her best friend and painter, Eliza Haldeman from the Philadelphia Academy, also arrived in Paris with two other school friends. They all searched for teachers and applied for copy memberships at the Louvre to study the masters as part of their instructions. Mary was accepted to be a pupil of a very respectable and sought after teacher, Jean Leon Gerome, well known among American students. For the next years, Mary would be completely immersed in her social life at the Louvre, where she copied the masters and had private lessons with Gerome. She also took extra lessons with her friend Eliza Haldeman’s teacher, and together they attended painting sessions for students in the evenings. A main objective for them was to use the influence and reputation of their teachers to get their first paintings accepted in the well-known and prestigious Salon.
In February of 1867, Mary Cassatt exchanged teachers. She had already been taking lessons with Eliza’s teacher, Charles Chaplin, and with his guidance, the two friends decided to take residence in the countryside. They went to Courances, not far from the Fontainebleau Forest, where they focused on painting outdoors, most of the time. Mary and Eliza’s paintings emphasized the simplicity of the countryside and the nobility of the peasants. As they dedicated their paintings to this genre, a local teacher who was well known for this specific theme, accepted them as students. Paul Constant Soyer lived in the village and taught Americans to paint. For the next year and a half, Mary and Eliza participated in the social life among the American painters and busied themselves with dinners and picnics in their off-hours.