Although women were typically not recognized for their paintings, Mary Cassatt was one of the few revered woman painters of the late 19th century. Cassatt grew up in Pennsylvania and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia where she learned to paint; however, Cassatt later moved to France and became an ex patriot of America. During her time in France, Cassatt became one of the first and only woman artists allowed into the elite circle of impressionist artists. Gender played a major role in determining the subjects of Cassatt’s painting. Thus, most of her paintings depict the private lives of rich, intellectual woman in the absence of men. In addition to capturing the private lives of woman, many of Cassatt’s paintings also incorporate themes such as life’s leisure and the “power of looking” or “The spectacle of modern life”.
In a Loge Woman in a Loge
Both of the images of women above are paintings by Mary Cassatt. These scenes allow us to see life from an ellite female perspective. It is interesting how both woman are looking away from the opera and are instead observing the other members of the audiance. Cassatt also uses light refraction and reflection to inhance the paintings, illustrating her impressionistic style.
Cassatt was not the only female artist concerned with the theme the private lives of women; for instance, Christina Rossitti was a well known female poet who wrote primarely about faith and gender duing her lifetime (1839-1894). Works such as "Goblin Market" and "Winter: My Secret"are a few examples of poetry written by Christina Rossitti that pertain to the secret lives of women and the interactions of their community. Below I have posted links to each of the three poems listed above as well as a scholarly article by Kevin Morrison, "Christina Rossetti's Secrets", which further explains Rossetti's own depiction of private female lives.
In addition, I have posted a link of Claude Debussy's composition Clair de Lune. Debussy was a part of a circle of composers known in France for their "impressionist music". Clair de Lune was composed in 1890 (around the time Cassatt was painting and Rossitte was writing her own compositions) and remains Debussy's best known peice.