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There are 2 variations of the self-portrait done by Cassatt, one done in 1878 and 1880. In both cases, the colour mix depicts an attentive painter to detail. The 1880 version is a watercolour painting on paper. She is seen staring onto something, a pose associated with thinking.
She has a brown hat on, a dark sweater and a brown scarf. The background has shades of yellow, light brown, blue, and cream. The multiple colours in watercolour painting are standard in impression arts. They give warmth, variety, imagination, and attention. The yellow streak shows the sunlight warmth while the green represents a serene background. The mood is seen through the brown colour while blue brings tranquillity to any artistic piece. This painting is at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.
Some of the paintings done around the same time include Woman with a Pearl Necklace, Woman Standing Holding a Fan, The Cup of Tea, and the Woman Reading, all done in 1879. The 1880 paintings include Portrait of Anne Chlotte Gaildd holding a Fan, Elsie in a Blue Chair, Mother and Child, Mrs. Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren, and the Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt.
She was from a wealthy family, and her family did not approve of her talents. Nevertheless, she joined the Pennsylvania Fine Arts Academy, where she honed her skills, both in art and advocacy. Her liberal stature improved the welfare of female painters in the institution in the long run.
She moved to France, where she expounded her knowledge. She met Jean-Leon Gerome, a teacher at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts who tutored her through the French way of art. Mary's love for thin brush strokes, light colours, and imagination made her famous among impressionists in France. The women and children she painted brought this theme out in a unique way.
Together with Marie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot, they formed the Three Great Ladies of Impressionism. The Beaver Hall Group from Canada and Lucy Bacon are her most notable students. Mary Cassatt was an authority in the impressionist era. Her paintings revolve around femininity and the role of women in society. Her upbringing exposed her to various forms of life, both in Europe and America. It increased her knowledge of contemporary art and the role of women in caregiving. The self-portrait done in 1880 was such a painting.