“I am independent!”

During the last quarter of the 19th century, women artists broke through the male-dominated environment of painting and declared their independence!  Among the leaders of these intrepid female artists was American expatriate Mary Cassatt!  Cassatt recognized that women were still restricted in terms of subject matter—they were “allowed/encouraged” to focus their compositional gaze to domestic scenes for which they were “particularly well suited”.  Cassatt intuitively understood that she could be free and independent as an artist when she would cast her gaze solely within the confines of the daily life associated with her family.  Cassatt embraced images of Motherhood (even though she never had children herself), intellectual pursuits like reading, and the nurturing of children by giving them baths, etc.  The American expatriate was thrilled to be given that voice!  Cassatt exclaimed:  “I am independent!  I can live and I love to work…I have touched with a sense of art some people—they felt the love and the life.  Can you offer me anything to compare to that joy for an artist?”

What are your thoughts on women finally being allowed their “artistic voice” within the rarified world of art making as exemplified by Mary Cassatt?

Mary Cassatt, Self Portrait, 1880

Mary Cassatt, The Reader, 1877

Mary Cassett, Maternity, 1890

Mary Cassatt, The Bath, 1893

Published by: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.


6 thoughts on ““I am independent!””

  1. Today, a lot of well known artists are women, and it’s crazy to think that not that long ago, women were put down for trying to create art. I find it interesting that in her independence, Mary Cassatt was still locked down and pushed into specific genres of art. I suppose with a world just coming around to accepting female artists, Cassatt was excited to have a place in it all, but the fact that women were encouraged to focus on domestic living for painting art is ridiculous.

    Now, female artists are everywhere, creating incredibly pieces of work that I WISH I could make, and I suppose it had to start somewhere. For that reason, I’m happy that Cassatt was able to achieve her own form of artistic independence because it helped change the world we live in today for female artists. I’m glad that art has come a long way in terms of being open to anyone and everyone that wants to create/express it.


  2. I think it was definitely past due. “I am independent! I can live and I love to work” is a profound statement. I think it embodies the beauty and unique perspective of that women possess. It is definitely possible to be a woman who creates incredible art (although it wasn’t believable back in Cassett’s day). Women are incredible creatures, and it is very sad that our artistic expression had been silenced for as long as it had. What’s interesting to me is that Mary Cassett was not moved by the opinions of what the patriarchal society thought she should paint. I love that she created what she WANTED to create: scenes of motherhood, of education, and mundane life. This is her power – her ability to create what she wants to create, when she wants to create it. She is independent.

    I wanted to include a small part from a spoken word piece that I heard a few years back. It is from a piece called “I Am Woman” by Alexis Cruz. I love it because I feel like it is something I personally relate to (as do a lot of women), as well as something I feel can be applied to Mary Cassett – as an artist, and as a woman.

    For I am power beyond belief
    I am a strong, independent woman
    I am strong because I am connected to my inner being
    I have a voice
    I have a mind
    I have a soul
    None of which you can control
    I will strike you down with my very last breath
    Never hesitating to become the woman i’m meant to be
    I am strong and independent
    I am woman.


  3. I’m really happy that women were finally able to express themselves through the art. Especially since these women pushed through super fast and expressed themselves in really good ways. The three examples show women, just being women. Something that I feel is overlooked a lot within the world. We see a mother feeding her child, a mother bathing her shower, hell we even see one just lounging reading a book. These are pieces of women doing mundane things but being shown as art and I’m all here for that.


  4. This is utterly beautiful. Even in today’s world, women are breaking through many boundaries especially in a male-dominated world. Marry Cassett is a fine example of not caring about what people say and doing what they value and love. I WISH all people would just take a step back and be more accepting of others. After all we are all human. Its really refreshing to see women artists.


  5. It’s about time! Mary Cassatt truly was an example to many female artists. Even without having the full support of her father, she still pursued her artistic career. She found her calling with a group of rebellious painters who later became known as the Impressionists. The Impressionists not only focused on the effects of light, but painted subjects of everyday life as we see in most of her works of art. But because Cassatt never gave up and was able to pull her weight on her own — was one of the many reasons why she was so inspiring to others especially during this this critical time period.


  6. I believe that women artists brought in a whole new perspective and different qualities. Because this was a male dominated world, these women had to be fearless, ruthless and sure about the works they made, but they also added this humanity to art. it wasn’t about power, status, divinity or fairy like stories, but they added to the movements that focused on the natural, simple yet strong aspects of life. Like mother themes, or home (because that is all they could really paint) they perfected their styles within that spectrum and allowed for a more naturalistic and human side of art to settle in. Also I felt like it allowed for more viewers to connect with the themes.


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