(American, 1844–1926), considered one of the most prominent and notable 19th-century American painters, was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania—now a part of Pittsburgh—and was one of seven children, two of whom died in infancy. As the daughter of wealthy parents, Cassatt was able to travel at a young age, and would spend most of her adult life in Europe, primarily in France. She is best known for her paintings depicting women in their public and private realms, and for her later association with the Impressionists. Cassatt began studying painting at the age of 15 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, despite her family’s disapproval of her interest in being a professional artist. In 1866, she moved to Paris with her mother and family friends, where she applied to study privately with instructors from the exclusive École des Beaux-Arts. Within just two years, one of Cassatt’s paintings was accepted for display in the highly-selective Paris Salon. Cassatt returned home to the United States in 1870, due to the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War, and was then commissioned by the Archbishop of Pittsburgh to paint copies of paintings by 16th-century Italian painter Antonio da Correggio (1489–1534). This commission enabled her to earn the money necessary to continue painting, and Cassatt returned to Europe in 1871 and permanent residence in France in 1874, where her work was regularly exhibited at the Paris Salon. In 1877, Edgar Degas
(French, 1834–1917) invited her to exhibit her paintings with the Impressionists, and they became close friends and colleagues. For the highly successful 1879 Impressionist exhibition, Cassatt painted some of her best known paintings, including Little Girl in a Blue Armchair
(1878), Portrait of the Artist
(1878), and Reading Le Figaro
(1878), which is a portrait of Cassatt’s mother. Cassatt’s works are part of the permanent collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.