I remember, though (warning! childhood reminiscing alert!), that when I was growing up, my mom had a big book of Mary Cassatt's works. One of those huge, glossy affairs with tons of color images. Anyway, I remember sitting on the couch and just reading it again and again (yes, I was a small, strange child). My absolute favorite was Little Girl in a Straw Hat and I used to just stare at that page. I don't know why. Probably a deficiency in some vitamin.
Anyway, I decided today that I wanted to see if Mary Cassatt still held the same fascination for me nowadays and . . . she does. So here she is, and I'm determined to find out why.
Okay. So first, I had to get over just going ooooh I likey when I was looking at the images and find out why I liked them. You know, like a grown up. So, here's why I think I like her work:
- Colored whites and light colors. Look at how interesting she makes her light colors. For that matter, look at how much of her work is a light color.
- Wonderful gestural line. These are real people doing real things. Look at how floppy and jointless her kids are, like real kids, and yet have perfect anatomy. I can almost pinch the baby fat and smell the old diapers.
- Faces. She has great expression in all of her portraits' faces, and yet the eyes are very understated. A lot of them don't even have catchlights. I'm thinking, after looking at them, that the reason she can pull this off is because so much of the personality is expressed in the body language.
- Colors. I'm a sucker for limited palette and although I don't think I could ever use her springy pastel palette, I like how few colors she uses for each piece.
- Multiple subjects. She handles multiple subjects effortlessly. Look at that one of the mum and the sister kissing the baby. Three subjects -- not competing for attention a bit. Perfect balance.
- Composition/ cropping. She has great diagonals. Look at how in so many of her pieces she has diagonal lines drawing your eye through the piece.
Seeing her work makes me want to get out my pencils and do a piece with just 10 pencils. It also makes me want to sketch my kids from life some more. Something with a lot of white . . . I might do a quick study tomorrow to see if I can incorporate that personality in gesture rather than in face.
Here are links for those interested in further study: here, here, and here.