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Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Mary Cassatt

DVD, approx, 22 min, (closed captioned). Cetting to Know. $29.95, Gr 2-8

This informative, entertaining entry in the series based on Mike Venezia’s books features original animation, art reproductions, and vintage photographs and illustrations. In 1852, seven-year-old Mary moved to Paris with her family; inspired by the city’s art museums, she decided to become an artist. Back then, women were thought of primarily as wives and mothers and didn’t cultivate careers. Though her father disapproved, he eventually agreed to send the headstrong girl to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She left the Academy for Paris to return to the paintings that had first inspired her. Despite the obstacles an American woman artist faced, her work was popular and hung at the prestigious Grand Salon. Passing by a gallery window, Cassatt discovered the Impressionists and soon formed a life-changing friendship wilh her favorite, Edgar Degas. She developed a new style with looser brushstrokes and brighter colors. Known for her affecting portraits of mothers and their babies, she chose to depict them in everyday situations­ sleeping or reading- rather than the “usual stiff, dressed-up poses,”

Though she never married or had children of her own, she used her extended family as models. She showed the world that women could be great artists and subjects as well. The full­ screen reproductions provide an excellent introduction to both Impressionism and Cassatt’s body of work. The humorous cartoon animation lightens the mood and makes the film more accessible to a young audience; lively background instrumentals hearken back to 19th-century Europe.

A good choice for Impressionist art units or for Women’s History Month. -Barbara Auerbach, York City Public Schools