Art Appreciation – Mary Cassatt

Art appreciation has always held the sound of dread to me. You see I had one of the worst experiences anyone could imagine in relation to this subject. When I was a college student, I put off art appreciation until the last, because I just didn’t look forward to it. I was an engineering major and thought I was mostly interested in science. It was a required class however, so I enrolled to take art appreciation as my very last class during the summer after my senior year. I was already arranging for full time employment as an engineer come August, so I did need to finish that class and get my certificate.

I signed up for a one month class. I had a little time between Spring semester and the Summer session and I was working hard to earn some money. The day came for me to go to my class. It really wasn’t a big deal. I’d been in college for four years and was pretty use to starting new classes. I had written down in my calendar the room number, time of class and the teacher’s name, so I looked at it and marched off to my new class. When I got to the door however, I had a real shock. The room was locked. "That’s funny," I murmered. I walked around in the art building trying to see if the class had been moved. Finally, I went to the student center and got a catalog of classes and looked up the class to see what I had written down wrong. Well, I had a made a huge mistake. I had written down the wrong month. It was July and the class had finished at the end of June. Horror! I might not be able to graduate.

I went to the chairman of the electrical engineering department and with the brightest red face you can imagine, I explained my predicament. He, of course, first had a hardy laugh. But then he took pitty on me and went to the dean of the college and asked if he would consider allowing me to take another class in place of art appreciation. I ended up taking a very interesting government class. I even got a nearly full refund for the art class, but only after explaining my situation to several more people, who thought I must be a brick shy of a load. Now you know though why I’m afraid of art appreciation. It gives me nightmares.

I never thought until recently about learning about art with my kids, other than learning how to make it. I have been following a few blogs of families that use the Charlotte Mason method in their homeschooling and I became interested in their art appreciation. They call it artist study. So, in spite of my fear of art appreciation, I asked my kids if they would like to learn about artists. They, of course, were thrilled. They both love to draw and want to learn about others who were artists of all types. I tried to think through how to start and I realized that I only knew a handful of names: Van Gogh, DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Picaso and Normal Rockwell (even though some would argue with me on the last one.) I thought we would start with Van Gogh, since I knew my dad (who should be an art teacher…and I wish would have taught me a little more. Ahem, Dad!) really likes Van Gogh and I knew that I could only think of one of his paintings that I could identify. I thought I could learn a lot about him. It wasn’t to be though. (I’ll get to eventually though.)

I told my daughter that I would let her choose which artist we would study and she had heard of an American female artist that she would rather learn about: Mary Cassatt. That is because my daughter has hopes that she’ll be an American female artist someday. I already think she is an American female artist, but maybe I’m prejudiced. Anyway, Mary Cassatt it was and I enjoyed it too. I learned about somebody totally new and enjoyed a lot of her art too.

Mary Cassatt notebook page

Zippy’s notebook page that she did on Mary Cassatt.

I made this page. (I’m so proud of me! It’s the first notebook page that I’ve ever made.) You can download it here. You can also download a black and white notebook page from this Cassatt Artist Study lens as well as some free coloring pages. We used this lens/website a lot during our study and it has all kinds of ideas on studying about Mary Cassatt, so check it out if you’re interested in studying/learning about her.

We got a hold of a few books with Mary Cassatt’s art and we just started looking at her paintings and drawings. We also read the preface out of a couple of them, because that told about her life. Even though she was an American, she spent most of her life in Paris soaking up life with the other Impressionist artists. Her favorite subjects were women and children.

Mary Cassatt Books

We also purchased the book: Mary Cassatt by Trewin Copplestone. (Thanks to a suggestion from Jimmie at the One Child Policy blog.) This is part of a set of books on different artists that is fairly inexpensive. (That’s always nice.) We also got the Cassatt Activity Pack by Dover publications.

 My kids did some of their own renditions of some Cassatt works.

Helene de Septeuil

JD Boy’s rendition of Hélène de Septeuil from the Dover coloring book. (Click on the link to see the original painting.)

Mary Cassatt renditions

Zippy’s renditions of Cassatt works. From left to right: Summertime (Grandpa did the ink on this and she did the painting), Young Woman Sewing in a Garden, Hélène de Septeuil. (Click on the links to see the originals.)

6 thoughts on “Art Appreciation – Mary Cassatt

  • May 7, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    What a great job on your first artist study!

    We've been homeschooling almost 4 years now and we have studied artists (off & on) almost from the beginning. I went from VERY little knowledge to someone who can name many artists and pieces of artwork! My daughter (8.5) can, too! And, we travel quite a bit and usually stop at any "big" art museum we can. It's been so much fun to find art by some of the artists we've studied. :-)

    I'd highly recommend the Mike Venzia book series, too. They are informative and entertaining,

    Dana, (you can see our art studies by clicking "art" on my sidebar)

  • May 8, 2009 at 1:41 am

    Your notebook page is GREAT! I'm going to link to this blog entry on the Mary Cassatt page. :-) I'm so glad that the lens was helpful and that the book worked out for you. (Whew! It's always risky making recommendations because sometimes we have different opinions.) You are doing just fine with CM artist study. I don't think of CM as a police officer, looking for mistakes. Instead she's more of a wise and comforting aunt who nudges you in certain directions.

  • May 8, 2009 at 5:29 am

    I had to laugh when reading your entry. Your experience with art in college made me think there should be a class called "Art for Engineers" for those that need a less intimidating class. :)

    Anyway, your Mary Cassatt study is wonderfully done. You need to utilize your dad in all your studies. He would probably love it and so would your children. I always tell people that when they don't know how to do something they only need to find someone to be a resource. That resource could be a real live person you know, a book, or even a blog.

    Thanks for sharing your study.

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  • May 17, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    What a great story about your own art "experience" !

    Looks like all of you are off to a great start in artist study. Looking forward to reading more.

  • May 23, 2009 at 1:49 am

    How neat. I will have to do this as well. I think Natalie would love it.


  • March 23, 2010 at 10:12 am

    We are studying Mary Cassatt and the Impressionist artists and I'm so happy to find your amazing blog! What great ideas. I am excited to get started! Thank you from a fellow homeschooling mother!


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