Friday, December 21, 2012

Mary Cassatt and the Feminine Ideal in 19th-Century Paris

The Cleveland Museum of Art presents Mary Cassatt and the Feminine Ideal in 19th-Century Paris, an exhibition that explores Cassatt's images of women with those of her contemporaries such as Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Organized thematically and primarily drawn from the museum's permanent collection, the exhibition contains over 50 works on paper, depicting visions of femininity ranging from the bourgeois wife and mother to peasant women of the countryside to urban women at work in the ballet and the brothel. Mary Cassatt and the Feminine Ideal in 19th-Century Paris, is on view October 13, 2012–January 21, 2013 in the Cleveland Museum of Art's James and Hanna Bartlett Prints and Drawings Gallery.

The museum's strong holdings of works on paper by Mary Cassatt will be showcased in the exhibition. The collection includes more than a dozen prints spanning the range of Cassatt's activity as a printmaker from her first efforts in 1879 when she was working closely with Degas, to her famous suite of ten color prints of 1890–91 that depict the daily life of the modern, bourgeois woman of 19th-century Paris.

In addition to Cassatt's masterpiece in pastel,

After the Bath (c. 1901), a number of her drawings will also be on view, including studies for several prints in the exhibition.

The exhibition will explore Cassatt's experimental approach to printmaking, the medium in which she was ultimately most revolutionary.

While Cassatt celebrated bourgeois mothers and children, her male contemporaries turned their gaze to "public women," the actresses, dancers and prostitutes of the entertainment class of fin-de-siècle Paris. Mary Cassatt and the Feminine Ideal in 19th-Century Paris includes drawings in pastel and watercolor as well as etchings and lithographs by Degas, Édouard Manet and Toulouse-Lautrec that represent women of the era from a variety of perspectives. These artists address the darker side of the feminine ideal and examine the complex and often fraught idea of the "modern woman" in late 19th-century Paris. Peasant women working in the countryside are depicted in the work of Camille Pissarro and Auguste Renoir.

Numerous examples from the Cleveland Museum of Art's collection of pastels are highlighted in the exhibition—a rare opportunity for visitors to enjoy spectacularly colorful, light-sensitive works on paper. The exhibition also includes an 18th-century Japanese woodcut that exemplifies the influence of ukiyo-e prints on the work of Cassatt and her contemporaries. The McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX has agreed to lend one of Cassatt's color prints for which the Cleveland Museum of Art has the related preparatory drawing.