For my fourth and final book in the American Art History Series I have once again enlisted the help of that wacky wordsmith, the biographic bard, to give us the outline of the life of Mary Cassatt. This time he has set the story to the tune of Oh! Susanna. Take it away, Bard!
Born in Pennsylvania to a loving family,
Three brothers plus a sister fair she played with cheerily.
Aleck, Mary, Lydia, Robie and little GardRode horseback, sang and played their games together in the yard.
Little Mary loved her family. Throughout her life they stood by her as close as they could be.
For Aleck’s school the family left when Mary was but seven.
In France they stayed while Aleck learned ’til Mary turned eleven.
Before they left disaster struck, her brother Robie died.
The family mourned the youthful loss; little Mary cried.
Heartsick Mary, she loved her brother so.
Soon the family came back home to absorb the dreadful blow.
At sixteen years she went to school at an art academy.
She learned to sketch, to paint, to sculpt; she studied anatomy.
She spent four years devouring all the fine art had to give.
Eager, skilled, remarkable, she found her spark to live.
Gung-ho Mary, she ached for this career.
Her father swore she’d never thrive, but kept his love sincere.
In those short years she’d learned near all the US had to give.
Back to France she traveled now, an artist’s life to live.
The art schools in old Paris then, a girl would not admit.
So Mary said, “I don’t need help.” Her spunk it didn’t quit.
Stubborn Mary, she marched off to the Louvre.The Masters of the ages past, they helped her to improve.
The oppressive art salon in France exerted firm control.
Traditional established art, the classics were their goal:
Shading deep and colors dark, mostly browns and grays,
With antique themes of heroes bold; the artists must obey.
Brilliant Mary, she finally passed the test.
Her painting called La Mandoline they hung up with the best.
Her place secure, her work embraced, but happy she was not.
Her style seemed cold, the subjects stern, but these her clients bought.
Natural colors, natural scenes she avidly adored.
The real world beckoned her to paint, the old Salon ignore.
Rebel Mary, she joined the outcast crowd.
Painting with Impressionists, it made her spirit proud.
Strolling down the street one day she spied a gallery.
A pastel in a window clear by Degas she did see.
The art work caught her clever eye, it changed her life she claimed.
Though different in their temperaments close friends they soon became.
Edgar Degas he treated Mary well.
For forty years their bond endured, begun by one pastel.
Though comfortable in Paris, France, her family wasn’t there.
When her dad retired they came to her, a lonely life to spare.
She walked with dad and shopped with mum and painted Lydia.
Her brothers and their families stayed in America.
Poor, frail Lydia her stay in France proved brief.She died in 1882 bestowing Mary grief.
Since the days she copied masterworks of Madonna with her child.
Mary’s paintings flowed with mums and babes; it became her private style.
Happy children secure and safe in mother’s loving arms.
Common women with their babes exuded natural charm.
Pastels, oils and prints exhibit grace.
Always touching, always close, their children mums embrace.
Though she came from young America with a paintbrush in her hand,
She spent her life and long career in France’s friendly land.
She earned awards but accepted few in her modest, humble way.
When she grew old she lost her sight and quietly passed away.
Accomplished Mary the world owes her a debt.
She left impressions of life and love we never will forget.