Mary Cassatt, a trailblazing artist and the only American painter to exhibit with the French Impressionists, painted a self-portrait in circa 1880, which is one of only two known. The painting’s background, color contrast, and asymmetrical pose show the influence of her friend Edgar Degas. This artwork was created using gouache and watercolor over graphite on paper.
Cassatt was mainly interested in femininity and women’s role in society concerning her artwork. She used her art to challenge gender norms and societal expectations actively. Her upbringing exposed her to different forms of life in Europe and America, resulting in increasing knowledge of contemporary art and caregiving.
Being one of the relatively small number of American women who became professional artists in the nineteenth century, Cassatt had a significant influence on other artists. However, she did not receive equal recognition compared to males at that time due to gender inequality.
Despite the discrimination she faced as a female artist during that period; Cassatt’s self-portrait highlights her talent for capturing human expression with unique features such as color contrast against skin tones or asymmetrical compositions giving depth & feeling to an image rarely achieved by contemporaries -and even too many subsequent generations- of artists.