. Relationship Between Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas

Relationship Between Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas

Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas
Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas

Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas were fellow artists that have been associated with each other for a long time. Some say they are more than colleagues, while some say that they were just artists with similar artistic interests, and some suggest that there was a definite love angle between the two.

Both were prolific painters and did share one thing in common, the love for art. A relationship straddled based on art gave so many beautiful paintings of the impressionist period, which are still admired to this day.

The segment below entails everything you need to know about Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas. How they met and what kind of bond they shared. Explore what they had in common and were they actually in a relationship?

Mary Cassatt

American painter Mary Cassatt was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, on May 22, 1844. However, she lived in France for most of her adult life. She has been described as one of three great ladies from the Impressionist era, alongside Berthe Morisot and Marie Bacquermond.

Mary Cassatt’s famous paintings generally depict the social and private lives of women. However, she mostly picturized the subjects of intimate bonds between mothers and children. She was seen as an epitome of the “New Woman” in the 19th century when the wave of feminism was spreading wide.

She was seen as a highly-skilled woman artist who never married and lived the way she desired. Yet, the legacy of Mary Cassatt continues to live forever through her iconic paintings. Yet, not many individuals may know that her paintings are sold for as much as $4 million.

Edgar Degas

On July 19, 1834, Edgar Degas was a French Impressionist artist. He was well known for his oil paintings and pastel paintings. Dance subjects highly inspired Degas, and many of his paintings depicted dancers.

He was a fan of bright, playful colors and widely used them in his artworks. With his dazzling colors, he brought the effects of light to canvas and infused them. As such, the scenes are happening in front of us. The ability of the artists to express the visual experience in the exact moment was beyond words.

Not just artworks, but Degas was deeply intrigued with Japanese prints, which influenced many of his works. As a result, his late artworks represent a changed color palette. The paintings were bold, painted with dark colors, and stout to the subject. It combined modern photography and Impressionism mixed with Degas’s statement style.

The friendship between Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas

Edgar was significantly stunned by Mary’s work and invited her for the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877. The wave of friendship between the two began from here. There were many things every day between the two, the artistic styles, taste in art and literature, painting study in Italy, independence, and the idea of never marrying anyone.

In 1877, Cassatt’s sister Lydia also joined them to study artworks at Louvre. Degas made two unique prints with an extravagant sense of technical innovation, showcasing Cassatt at the Louvre looking at artworks and Lydia reading a guidebook.

But, it was not the first time that Cassatt posed for Degas. She has been a subject of interest in Edgar’s artworks, specifically for his millinery series trying on hats.

Artistic Relationship Between Degas and Cassatt

They were each other’s helping hands in the art domains. While Degas was more into teaching Cassatt the art of pastels and engraving, Cassatt helped him sell his artworks. They both worked together in the fall and winter of 1879-90.

It would be less coincidental to say that it was just destiny when Cassatt was printmaking and Edgar owned a small printing press. She used to practice and work in Edgar’s studio with the tools and press to improvise her skills.

In April 1880, Degas withdrew himself from the print journal, and this ended with the collaboration that he shared with the printing project. After that, the rumored couple stopped working together, but they kept meeting often.

Was There a Romantic Relationship Between the Two?

The Impressionist artists were known to be very close friends and colleagues. So it comes as no surprise that Degas had a significant influence on Cassatt’s art and life. But was something more substantial than a professional art-centric relationship?

The word spread concludes that Edgar Degas had a bad reputation; some have even called him out to be celibate, impotent, a misogynist, or even a sex offender. On the contrary, Mary Cassatt is considered a secluded woman of high social standing. So, the question is, was it possible for them to have an affair with so many contradictions?

As much as you want to believe the rumors, you will have no concrete evidence to prove the same. So the answer is we will never know that there was something between the two. That’s because Cassatt destroyed all of her letters and belongings associated with Degas before she died.

The Bottom Line

American painter Mary Cassatt was a woman of high social standards and the epitome of modern women. Study Mary Cassatt’s drawings to understand how much she was driven to the rising feminism and contributed to it. Unfortunately, while she has been associated with Edgar Degas her entire life, there is nothing solid to prove they shared any intimate bond.