For the next decade Mary Cassatt had to deal with serious work issues and sickness and death in her family.
Lydia, her sister died in 1883. Mary had hardly the chance to overcome her loss when her parents’ health began to decline.
In 1886, the Impressionists had another exhibit. Mary participated in organizing and financing it along with Degas and Morisot. The sales were successful, and the critics praised Mary again.
Mary’s art dealer was also showing her work in New York, where Impressionist style paintings were in demand.
For the next few years, Mary managed her work while she cared for her parents. Her father’s health took a turn for the worse at the end of the decade, and he passed away in 1891.
Right after her father’s death, Mary Cassatt was invited to paint a mural for the woman’s building at the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. The Cassatts had been renting villas for the summer and Mary decided to paint this large commission at the Chateau of Bachilliers, where they had spent the previous summer. The studio was big enough to hold three very large canvases that together would form the mural called Modern Women. These paintings have not survived, but pictures of them show women picking together the fruit of knowledge from a tree. They have the simplicity of Mary’s prints, and the colors are vibrant.
Just as she finished that enormous project her first major exhibit in Paris opened. Almost one hundred works were installed at the Dur and Ruel Gallery for Mary’s retrospective exhibition.
Having kept herself so busy after her father’s death, Mary decided to slow down some and move away from Paris. After so many years of renting houses for the summer, Mary decided to buy a chateau in Beaufresne and renovate it. She kept an apartment in Paris, and she Mrs. Mathilde Vallet, their long time maid, running both places, so that Mary’s work was not interrupted. This marks the series of paintings done by the water featuring family members who came for visits from Philadelphia. She painted The Boating Party in 1894, a well-known painting depicting bright colors by the sea and a mother holding a child in a boat.
Mary’s mother died the following year, leaving Mary alone for the rest of her life.
Her success and sales in New York continued, and she decided it was time to return to her birthplace for a visit.
In 1898 Mary arrived in New York, after a very short visit to Philadelphia, to see her brother and grown children. She was warmly received in the art world, and her patrons immediately requested commissions to paint their children and family.
She also went to Boston to visit the Sears family who she had been acquainted with through work in Paris. They also commissioned a portrait of Mrs. Sarah Choate Sears, an artist herself, and collector. This was a business trip to ensure her sales in New York, and after a few months away from Paris, she was ready to go back to her beloved home in Beaufresne.