The Influence of Mary Cassatt and her friend Degas…

I have been preparing for an upcoming local solo exhibit. A small show but important to me. Thoughts on what to include have shifted from landscapes and florals to an exhibition of my soul on canvas. Dancers.

Form. Movement. Grace and elegance. I have always been fascinated with drawing and painting from life. Understanding the figure is both my greatest challenge and artistic passion. The human body tells its own physical story, though an understanding of the individual is a bit more complex. Mysterious even. The two cannot be separated.

“If painting is no longer needed, it seems a pity that some of us are born into the world with such a passion for line and color.” –Mary Cassatt

 Portraits that tell a story have captured my imagination since I first viewed Mary Cassatt’s paintings many years ago at the MFA in Boston and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Artbooks that focus on her work line my studio bookshelf. A suffragette. A keen observer of 19th century women’s lives. Cassatt was exquisitely able to illustrate the bond between a mother and a child, yet she never married or had children. Intimate storytelling with a paintbrush.

               “I am independent! I can live alone, and I love to work.” –Mary Cassatt

A dancer’s body encompasses both strength and grace in equal measure as Degas so masterfully portrayed. Controlled effortlessness. Beauty in motion. In my exhibit I will be presenting a series of dancers in their quiet and reflective moments. Thoughts are to be imagined by the viewer. Offstage. Backstage. Interpreting a thought-provoking human breath that the audience is not privy to.

“People call me the painter of dancing girls. It has never occurred to them that my chief interest in dancers lies in rendering movement and painting pretty clothes.” –Edgar Degas

 Blank faces are deliberate and by design in my paintings. Emotive sans the details. The significance of what one might see as an oversight is in fact a statement of the societal treatment of women. Past and present. Local and global.  Women’s voices are still not heard. Equality remains elusive.

                    “Women should be someone and not something.” –Mary Cassatt





Author: Elizabeth Ricketson

A graduate of Providence College with a BA in English, Elizabeth Ricketson has always had a love of literature and the fine arts. Elizabeth’s essays focus on life experiences and life in Vermont.

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