Mary Stevenson Cassatt was born on May 22, 1844 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. At fifteen she began to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She was not satisfied with her education at the academy and eventually left to pursue direct instruction in Europe from master artists.

After her arrival in Europe at just 22 years of age she witnessed incredible change. The impressionists were introducing new ways of seeing and painting, some with a radical departure from the Academic methods. While she maintained a traditionalist view early in her career she was in conflict with the Paris Salon which she saw as too political.

In 1877 she was invited to show with the Impressionists by Edgar Degas, beginning a long and close working relationship. She was welcomed into the group of Impressionist and was the only American to exhibit with them for several years.

“As an American living abroad, Mary Cassatt infused her unique perspective into the European Impressionism movement, offering a fresh take that was influenced by both her American roots and her exposure to European and African art. This blend of cultures and experiences made her work resonate with a global audience, inspiring countless artists in various parts of the world.”

Alphonse J. Liébert & Co., Paris, Mary Cassatt, c. 1867.

"After the Bullfight" - School of the Art Institute of Chicago

On May 1, 1855 Eliza Cecilia Beaux was born in Philadelphia. She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where she would later be the first female to teach art. She also trained at the Academy Julian in Paris and Academy Colarossi where she received instruction from William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

During her career she was adept at navigating the turmoil inherent in rapidly changing art movements and excelled in portraiture of the elite. She was noted to be “the American Woman who made the greatest contribution to the culture of the world ” by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933.

William Merritt Chase said of Beaux, “Miss Beaux is not only the greatest living woman painter, but the best that has ever lived. Miss Beaux has done away entirely with sex in art.”


"Dorothea and Francesca"

On April 15th, 1889 Thomas Hart Benton was born in Neosho, Missouri. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Academie Julian in Paris. He pursued a modernist bent until a trip back home to Missouri in 1924 inspired him to paint a more realistic version of his rural American subjects known as Midwest Regionalism. He is best known for his identifiable style and large murals depicting the working class that were often considered controversial and political. Benton died while working on a mural in 1975.

Self-Portrait, National Gallery of Art, Washington

“Achelous and Hercules” Mural 1947 Smithsonian American Art Museum

Charles Willson Peale was born on this date, April 15th, 1741. At the age of 13 he apprenticed to a saddle maker, eventually opening his own business, which failed. He also tried his hand at fixing clocks and working with metal, both businesses also failed. It was then that he took up painting. He grew to become one of early America’s first great painters, creating portraits of some of the most recognizable and prominent figures of the late 18the century, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and John Hancock. One of Peale’s most famous works is “George Washington at Princeton.”

Peale was a brilliant man of great intellect…a Renaissance man, born in Chester, Maryland. He became an expert, not only in painting but also in carpentry, dentistry, optometry, shoemaking, and taxidermy.

He was an ardent supporter of the American Revolution and recruited troops for the Pennsylvania Militia; he himself joined the Continental Army under George Washington and advanced to the rank of captain. Later he served in the Pennsylvania State Assembly; he also founded the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, one of the first American museums.

He was married three times, two of his wives proceeding him in death. He had 16 children, all of whom did remarkably well in life. He died on February 22, 1827, and is buried alongside his second wife at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

Charles Willson Peale - "George Washington at Princeton" - 93" x 58.5" - Oil (1779)

Thomas Jefferson was born on this date, April 13th, 1743. Much has been written about this man. He is one of our most important American founders, a statesman and key thinker of his day. He was a diplomat, lawyer, architect, and philosopher. He served as America’s first Secretary of State, its second Vice President, and its third President. His most famous work was the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and within that draft he penned these words:

“We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

From his letters: “The most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised, for the preservation of freedom and happiness.”

“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories.”

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

“It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”

“Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depository of the public interests.”

And finally: “Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appears to me so pure as that of Jesus.”

John Trumbull - "Declaration of Independence" - 12' x 18' - Oil (1817)

Jean-Antoine Houdon (Hu-don) was born on this date, March 20th, 1741. Why is this French sculptor important? Jean-Antoine Houdon is recognized as having created the truest representation of our first president, George Washington.

Houdon lived through the tumultuous times of the French and American Revolutionary Wars. During it all his reputation as a brilliant sculptor flourished. Within the circle of French intellectuals, in which he moved, there were many Americans residing in Paris who were there to promote the cause of their young nation with sympathetic Europeans; among them was Benjamin Franklin. He, along with Thomas Jefferson, invited Houdon to come to America to model Washington’s portrait. In 1785 he did so, meeting Washington at his Mount Vernon, Virginia home.

This is the account of how Washington’s plaster life mask was made: Houdon had the general lie down and prepared his face with a layer of grease. His eyes were covered before adding a coat of wet plaster. Straws were inserted in his nose so he could breathe. Once the plaster hardened, Houdon removed the cast and poured plaster into the mold to make a positive model. Because Washington’s eyes were closed during the process, Houdon had to sculpt the open eyes based on caliper measurements, and he also had to retouch the nostrils.

The many marble sculptures Houdon created during his lifetime, not only of Washington, but also Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and many other notables of history, became the definitive representations of these men and were reproduced many times because of their popularity.

Rosa Bonheau (Boone-nah) was born on this date, March 16th, in 1822. She was a French painter and sculptor of remarkable ability, known primarily for her paintings of animals. As a teenager she rejected her training to become a seamstress and set her sights on art. She began studying and sketching animal motion and form by visiting farms, stockyards, animal markets, horse fairs, and slaughterhouses.

Her works became extremely popular and by 1841, at the age of 19, she was already exhibiting works in the Paris Salon and she continued to do so for the next 14 years, even winning an exemption from jury approval in 1853. She was the first woman to be awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest decoration, both civil and military, and it’s one of the most famous national honours in the world.

Bonheau’s work rapidly gained popularity in the United States and Britain. The Horse Fair, considered by many to be her masterpiece, was acquired by Cornelius Vanderbilt for a record sum and became one of her most widely reproduced works. Vanderbilt later donated the piece to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

It was not all easy for Bonheur, for she was a controversial character. She never married but had lifelong female companions, which raised obvious questions. But also, because much of her sketching was done in public places, largely dominated by men, she began dressing as a man. She came to be mocked for her garb and eventually had to obtain police authorization to dress as she desired. What a different time!!!

Later in life she became fascinated with the American West, so when “Buffalo Bill” Cody took his Wild West Show to Paris in 1889, Bonheur befriended him, sketched his encampment, and painted his portrait on horseback. She died on May 25th, 1899.

"The Horse Fair" 96" x 200" - Oil (1852-1855)

Benjamin West died on this date, March 11, in 1820. He was barely two years old when in 1740 the 13 Colonists were called “Americans” for the first time. Born in Pennsylvania of Quaker descent, as a young man he exhibited considerable artistic talent, even though self-taught. In 1756 he was sent to Philadelphia to study painting and by the age of 20 he was already recognized as a successful portraitist in New York City.

In 1763 he moved to London and quickly established himself as a portrait painter, eventually catching the eye of King George III who provided patronage and financial security. West became a painter of historical, religious, and mythological subjects and gained such popularity that his work profoundly influenced the development of historical painting in Britain, his most famous painting being, “The Death of General Wolfe.” In 1768, he founded the British Royal Academy.

Some of America’s most important colonial artists, such as Gilbert Stuart, Charles Willson Peale and John Singleton Copley, were his students. Copley was to become known as the first painter to create a truly American vison.

West lived during the time of the American Revolution but his friendship with King George never waned. Although West was loyal to America he never returned to his nation of birth.

Benjamin West - "The Death of General Wolfe" - 60" x 80" - Oil (1770)

Stanhope Alexander Forbes died on the date, March 2, in 1947. He was a brilliant English artist. At the age of 23, desiring to further his art education, he moved to Paris. Studying at the private atelier of Leon Bonnat, it was there that he discovered the work of Bastien-Lepage. The impact of his work convinced Forbes that figure painting should be done outside. Brittany, France was an ideal location to begin such work. “There they found everything an artist could desire. The people were distinct, wearing the beautiful national costumes which had been handed down from bygone ages. They retained the language of their forefathers, and each village religiously followed the old traditions which ordered their dress and personal conduct.”

In 1884, he and fellow artist, Walter Langley, founded the Newlyn Art Colony. Forbes was soon recognized as “Father of the Newlyn School” and a strong advocate of Rural Naturalism. It was important to Forbes that his paintings were always of good taste. Good taste was a matter of breeding and highly prized, he believed, and nothing demeaning should enter a scene.

"A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach" - 47.5" x 61" - Oil

Joaquín Sorolla was born on February 27, 1863, in Valencia, Spain. "From 1890, Sorolla's career was a breathless succession of Spanish and international exhibitions, commissions for portraits, showers of honours and almost ceaseless travel. Paintings by him were exhibited in Munich, Paris, Chicago, Vienna, Venice, and as far as Buenos Aires. In 1895, his painting 'Return from Fishing' (now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris) was exhibited at the Paris Salon and then purchased by the French state, confirming his status as a major international figure. By 1900, he could be considered as the most famous of all living Spanish artists."

"The Return from Fishing: Hauling the Boat" Oil/Canvas, 1894, Musee d'Orsay

Joaquín Sorolla, Self-portrait, 1904, Sorolla Museum, Madrid, Spain. Detail.

Pierre Auguste Renoir was born February 25, 1841, in Limoges, France. He was one of the central figures of the impressionist movement (a French art movement of the second half of the nineteenth century whose members sought in their works to represent the first impression of an object upon the viewer). His work is characterized by a richness of feeling and a warmth of response to the world and to the people in it... Renoir was so passionate about painting that he even continued when he was old and suffering from severe arthritis. Renoir then painted with the brush tied to his wrists".

"La Loge ('The Theatre Box')", 1874, Oil,  Courtauld Institute of Art, London

Winslow Homer was born on February 24, 1836, in Boston Massachusetts. The first two decades of his career were spent as a commercial illustrator. Later, during the American Civil War, he worked for Harpers Weekly sketching camp life and other scenes on the front lines. Even during this period he created a narrative of the war that showed its effects on society. After the war he continued his work for Harpers Weekly and traveled to Paris for a year where he aligned with his french contemporaries of the Barbizon school. In 1875 he transitioned from illustration and dedicated his efforts to painting in oils. Later in his career he exhibited works in watercolor and even exhibited a sculpture. Throughout his career he showed his innate talent as he transitioned from different subjects and media. His career spanned fifty five years and he is considered one of the foremost 19th century American painters.

“Snap the Whip” 1872 Oil/Canvas The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Winslow Homer / Thomas A. Gray / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Guy C Wiggins was born on February 23, 1883, in Brooklyn, New York. He studied at the National Academy of Design and his teachers were William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri. He was the president of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, and a member of the Old Lyme Art Colony. He is best known for his snowy New York City street scenes.

“New York Sunset, 1945” Oil/Canvas 27.25 x 35.25 inches

"In an interview published in the Detroit News in 1924 he talked about his New York snow scenes. 'One cold, blustering, snowy day (1912) I was in my New York studio trying to paint a summer landscape. Things wouldn't go right, and I sat idly looking out of a window at nothing. Suddenly I saw what was before me, an elevated railroad track, with a train dashing madly through the whirling blizzard-like snow that made hazy and indistinct the row of buildings on the far side of the street ('Metropolitan Tower, 1912' Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY). Well, when I gave an exhibition a short time afterward...the winter canvases were sold before anything else. In a week, so to say, I was established as a painter of city winter scenes, and I found it profitable. Then suddenly I felt revulsion against them and I stopped. Everyone said I was a fool and was shutting the door upon opportunity, maybe fame. Just the same I couldn't go on with winter stuff and that was all there was to it."

Given his revulsion to the snow scenes I think he would appreciate us showing a summer painting.

Charles-Francois Daubigny was Born on February 15,1817. A member of the Barbizon School of painters, an important art critic of the mid 1800s said of Daubigny (Dough-bee-nee) that “There is nobody better than M. Daubigny who gives to a landscape its just accent and its true character. It is of him that one can say, ‘He is a realist.’ His painting is sincerity itself. A man must have lived in the closest intimacy with Nature to render in so striking a manner the most fugitive effects, the most daring harmonies.”

“The River Seine at Mantes” – 19″ x 29″ – Oil (1856)