Cassatt initially found success at the Paris Salon when she first exhibited there in 1872 and again in 1874. Cassatt often wrote that Degas’ opinion was the only one that she could count on.
It was here where Degas first noticed her work, and not knowing she was a woman, is said to have remarked to a friend: “There is someone who feels like I do! That was when Degas made me promise never to submit anything to the Salon again, and to exhibit with his friends in the group of the impressionists. At last I could work absolutely independently, without worrying about the possible opinion of a jury! Curiously, she ended up burning almost every letter between them, so we don’t know the full extent of their relationship.
See, to me, it would be awesome enough if Cassatt's merits stopped there.
I have so much respect for women who paved the way for girls today to do whatever the hell they want. One of the major themes of her work was the relationship between a mother and her child.
Accompanied by her mother and some family friends, Cassatt studied privately with teachers from the École des Beaux-Arts because women were not allowed to attend classes at the school.
She also got a permit to copy the paintings of the masters that hung at the Louvre.
Full disclosure: I actually did not choose to be in this class, but because of scheduling conflicts was funneled in. We were to randomly pick an Impressionist from a hat and thoroughly research them and analyze one of their works. My art teacher saw this and, aware of my infamous feminist reputation, without hesitation snatched the slip of paper with Ingres' name on it from my indifferent hands and switched it with that of an unassuming boy across the room. Not one to give up, Cassatt decided she didn't need those assholes anyway and painted on her own in the Louvre until prominent masters - or tutors - of the time decided to take her on.
I've been surrounded by art, music and theatre my entire life - in fact, my Grandmother and Mom are both visual artists and my Dad and Brother are both in the theatre industry. I pick up a paintbrush and I swear the paper tries to escape from my manic clutches. However, there she soon found that though the student body was 20% female, most women were there to make themselves more attractive to wealthy suitors ("? Cassatt was too good for that shit, so she went to Paris to try to paint professionally.
Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas had a creatively productive friendship that lasted nearly 40 years.
Their complicated relationship, one marked in turn by warm camaraderie and cold shoulders, encouraged both artists to embrace experimentation and new approaches.