The Inevitable Relationship of Art and Sensibility
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) and Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
At the West Building, National Gallery of Art through October
By Patricia Keegan
When her work first appeared in 1879, American artist Mary Cassatt stated that her initial encounter with Degas’s art “changed my life,” while Degas, upon seeing Cassatt’s art for the first time, reputedly remarked “there is someone who feels as I do.”
It was this shared sensibility, as well as Mary Cassatt’s extraordinary talent, that drew Degas’s attention. As you walk through this outstanding exhibit arranged with the works of Degas and Cassatt, sometimes side by side, it takes you back to a time of exuberance in the art world when the Impressionist movement made color dance. Although both artists eschewed landscapes almost entirely, the exhibit is alive with color and inspiration.
Mary Cassatt’s role in shaping Degas’s work and introducing him to American audiences is fully examined for the first time. The exhibit is organized over four galleries with a focus on the height of Degas and Cassatt’s artistic alliance — through the late 1870’s and mid 1880’s. Included in this exhibit are oil paintings, pastels, and works on paper (etchings, lithographs, monotypes and drawings) including several that were once in the artist’s own collection.
Cover photo: Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878, oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
Andrew Wyeth Exhibit: Looking Out Looking In
The Degas/Cassatt exhibit is not to be missed, and can be combined with another amazing artist, Andrew Wyeth. Wyeth lived from 1917 to 2009, a different era, but Looking Out Looking In is located in the same area at the National Gallery of Art’s West Wing.
Moving from the vibrant colors of the “impressionists” into Wyeth’s non-figurative, yellow-tinged tempera and to grays and browns, may seem like a big change, however if you have never seen an Andrew Wyeth exhibit this one is mesmerizing. How does an artist capture the wind blowing in fine lace curtains? How does an artist give life to one blade of grass shining in the sun, or to a worn out corner of old clapboards on a weather beaten house?
For anyone who has ever held an artist brush in her hand, or felt time rushing and pushing against perfection, a viewing of Wyeth’s work demonstrates the extent of patience and commitment required to accomplish the ‘impossible.” It is rare to see such pure simplicity combine so naturally with fierce complexity.
The Andrew Wyeth exhibit runs through November 30 in the West Building, National Gallery of Art.
Hours: Monday - Saturday 10am - 5 pm, Sunday 11 am - 6 pm. On the web at nga.gov, or automated info at 202-737-4215. For accessibility information call 202-842-6690 (TDD line 202-842-6176).