Analysis Of The Impressionist Movement Of The 19th Century Essay

Analysis Of The Impressionist Movement Of The 19th Century Essay

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Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844 –1926), one of the leading artists in the Impressionist movement of the later part of the nineteenth century, is known for her depictions of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children. After visiting a large exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e) at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in April 1890, Mary Cassatt began to experiment with different print techniques. In 1890-1891, Cassatt produced a series of ten colored drypoint and aquatint prints in open admiration of ukiyo-e prints, which became a milestone in graphic art and Impressionist printmaking. With the growing popularity of Japanese woodcuts during the 1890s, Cassatt’s relationship to Japanese ukiyo-e is generally recognized and widely discussed. However, the term, “Japanese influence”, is overused by art historians and critics in the discussion of Mary Cassatt’s prints. It is confusing and misleading for art historians and critics to use the term “Japanese influence” while referring it to different aspects. ‘“Influence” is the curse of art criticism’, wrote Michael Baxandall (1985) in an ‘Excursus against influence’ in his methodological book, Patterns of Intention: on the Historical Explanation of Pictures. “To think in terms of influence blunts thought by impoverishing the means of differentiation.”

“If one says that X influenced Y it does seem that one is saying that X did something to Y rather than Y did something to X. But in the consideration of good pictures and painters the second is always the more lively reality… If we think of Y rather than X as the agent, the vocabulary is much richer and more attractively diversified: drawn on, resort to, avail...


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...satt had known of the prints before 1890, but the exhibition provided a new stimulus and she bought from it many examples of work by the leading Ukiyo-e masters. Cassatt then started her experiments with printing and took her own printmaking in a highly innovative direction in admiration of the Japanese prints.
It is intentional that Cassatt cites the “atmosphere” of Ukiyo-e. In Cassatt’s letter in 1906 to Frank Weitenkampf, print curator of the New York Public Library, Cassatt described her methods:

“I was entirely ignorant of the method when I began, and as all the plates were colored by me. I varied sometimes the manner of applying the color. The set of ten plates was done with the intention of attempting an imitation of Japanese methods; of course I abandoned that somewhat after the first plate (The Bath), and tried more for atmosphere.”





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