Zimmerli Celebrates Printmaking Achievements of Mary Cassatt

August 23, 2012 




New Brunswick, NJ —From September 29, 2012 to March 3, 2013, the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers will showcase a group of sensitive portrayals of women and children produced by the American artist Mary Cassatt during the most productive and creative period of her printmaking, between 1889 and 1897.

For Mary Cassatt Prints: In the Company of Women, the museum will present 17 exquisite drypoint prints from its own renowned graphic arts collection alongside five of Cassatt’s groundbreaking color prints, generously lent from a private collection. A highlight of the showing is a remarkable suite of 12 prints executed in the drypoint technique, depicting women and children in reflective moments. Now known to print collectors and scholars as the “Set of Twelve” (1890), these prints announced Cassatt’s seriousness and accomplishment as a printmaker. In addition to the rare, intact “Set of Twelve,” works from the Zimmerli’s collection also include a proof state of Tea, one of the best-known prints in the set, which demonstrates Cassatt’s intense working process.

“With this exhibition, we focus on treasures from our collection that are rarely displayed due to their inherent fragility as light-sensitive works on paper,” notes Suzanne Delehanty, director of the Zimmerli. “As well, we continue our tradition of organizing important exhibitions of prints and focusing on the achievements of women artists.” She adds, “The works in this exhibition also complement the Zimmerli’s renowned collection of Japonisme by demonstrating the important influence of Japanese art on Cassatt’s print oeuvre.”

As a printmaker, Cassatt is best known for her innovative works in color.  Following the critical and commercial success of the “Set of Twelve,” Cassatt embarked upon an ambitious project of color intaglio printmaking inspired by a major exhibition of Japanese color woodcut prints she saw in Paris in April 1890. One year later, Cassatt exhibited a set of ten color aquatints showing contemporary Parisian women in the course of their daily activities, which are considered among the most remarkable color prints in the history of printmaking. Among the 23 prints in the exhibition are two works from that set, The Fitting and In the Omnibus, as well as three other important color prints. 

Mary Cassatt excelled at depicting the world of women and children, imbuing her subjects with both a timeless monumentality and contemporary specificity in her prints, paintings and pastels. The Zimmerli’s exhibition showcases Cassatt’s keen ability to capture the specific moods, relationships, and spaces of the women of her day. The two girls intently studying in The Map, the dignified young woman in Reflection, and the focused mother and child in The Stocking are just three examples of Cassatt’s mastery in conveying moments of quiet female intimacy and absorption in thought that had few precedents in the history of art.

Printmaking initially held little interest for the artist. Focused on her career painting portraits and genre subjects, Cassatt left her native Pennsylvania to study in Europe, settling permanently in Paris in 1873. In 1877, Edgar Degas invited her to join the group of Impressionist painters and assumed a mentoring role in her career.  Inspired by his experiments in printmaking, Cassatt began making prints in 1879. Printmaking remained an important part of her artistic activity until 1911, when her eyesight began to fail. Following Degas’s example, Cassatt broke new ground as an artist with her own experimental printmaking practice, employing drypoint, aquatint, and etching in innovative combinations. 

“Mary Cassatt’s prints stand out in the crowded field of avant-garde printmaking during the 1890s. She found an ideal vehicle for her lucid depictions of contemporary women when she took up the drypoint needle,” says Christine Giviskos, Associate Curator of European Art at the Zimmerli, who organized In the Company of Women with Marilyn Symmes, Director, Morse Research Center for Graphic Arts and Curator of Prints and Drawings.

Public Programs

Sunday, October 14, 2012 / 2pm

Visiting Mary Cassatt: The Paris Apartment in Cassatt's Art

Nancy Mowll Mathews

Eugenie Prendergast Senior Curator of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Art Emerita at Williams College Museum of Art

Throughout the six decades that Mary Cassatt lived in Paris, she maintained her art studio in her own apartment and lived like most Parisians, who typically combined public and private activities in the same space. Cassatt's art reflects her thinking about this living and working arrangement, especially for the women who visit and entertain, as well as privately care for their own and their families’ daily activities. This lecture, by Nancy Mowll Mathews, a widely recognized expert on Cassatt’s prints, provides insights into the personal and professional context for Cassatt’s two major print portfolios that the artist produced in 1890 and 1891, including the set of twelve drypoints that is the centerpiece of the exhibition Mary Cassatt Prints: In the Company of Women.

Location: Voorhees Hall. $10 general admission; $5 museum members. Free to Rutgers faculty, staff, and students. RSVP to education@zimmerli.rutgers.edu.

Wednesday, November 7 / 5:30-9:00pm


A screening of Mary Cassatt: A Brush with Independence, a 55-minute documentary film that explores Cassatt's life and work with commentary by leading Cassatt experts. An instructor-led pastel drawing workshop allows visitors to create their own masterpieces.

ART AFTER HOURS is the eclectic evening series held the first Wednesday of the month at the Zimmerli Art Museum. Each month spotlights a special exhibition or permanent collection highlights with a guided tour, as well as related entertainment and activities. Free to Rutgers students, faculty and staff and museum members.  Others free with museum admission.

Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, founded in 1966, is one of the largest university art museums in United States. The Zimmerli’s permanent collection comprises more than 60,000 works, ranging from ancient to contemporary art and featuring particularly rich holdings in the areas of French art of the 19th century, Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art, and American and European works on paper, including prints, drawings, photographs, and rare books.

Exhibition Support  

The Zimmerli Art Museum is supported by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, as well as the income from the Avenir Foundation Endowment Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment Fund, and the Voorhees Family Endowment Fund, among others. Additional support comes from the Estate of Victoria J. Mastrobuono and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Contributions from other corporations, foundations, and individuals, as well as earned income, also provide vital annual support for the Zimmerli’s operations and programs.

Location and Hours

The Zimmerli is midway between New York City and Philadelphia and a short walk from the New Jersey Transit station in New Brunswick. The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street at the corner of George Street on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm, and Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5 pm; first Wednesdays of each month September through July, 10 am to 9 pm. Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for adults over 65, and free for museum members, Rutgers students, faculty and staff (with ID), and children under 18. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. For more information, call 848.932.7237 or visit the museum’s website: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu


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