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Mary Cassat and John Bellany

In: Miscellaneous

Submitted By caitlingowans
Words 760
Pages 4
The inspirational female artist, Mary Cassatt, is an artist who travelled frequently between the USA and France during the 1860s, building her knowledge of the Impressionist movement, and following pioneers such as Degas and Pissarro. Although Cassatt had to fight through many setbacks as a female artist in the late 1800s, she still managed to become one of the most inspiring artists of her time.

“Mother and Child -1905” clearly portrays the bond between mother and child as well as giving the viewer an insight into the terrifying truth of narcissism. A large wall mirror has been placed behind the two sitters. Moreover, the young girl is sitting on her mother’s knee while the mother holds a hand mirror up to the girls face. The use of two mirrors not only allows us to see all angles of the mother and child’s faces; but also symbolises the vanity and self consciousness the girl will experience after she grows up and loses her innocence. The mother is revealing to her daughter the character she will require by society.
The uses of warm yellow and green tones suggest that the sunlight was pouring through the windows of Cassatt’s studio as she painted. This warm hue is reflected in the judgement we get of the feeling between the two sitters. Striking splashes of colour are used to highlight refracting light and dim shadows – a characteristic common to Impressionist movement. Cassatt’s use of line is also of great importance to the painting. The angle of the sitter`s arms as the hold up the mirror, and the angle of their legs lead directly to the central component – the child's head. This pulls the viewers’ eyes into the centre, allowing them to promptly grasp Cassatt's main focus of the child's innocence.
Cassatt often used friends and neighbours as sitters in order to create a more domestic, real sense to her paintings. She did not need to glamorise her sitters to add to the appeal of the painting, she manages to simply but effectively portray the most natural bond on earth – mother and child.

While Cassatt’s market was targeted at a middle class cultured elite, the contemporary Scottish artist John Bellany also managed to depict the sentiment of family by using his working class fishing-town background. Growing up in Port Seton, Scotland, Bellany focused greatly on Fauvism when establishing himself as an artist. However, he later developed into a more Realist style in which he would often paint his subjects in verisimilitude in order to portray his views of humanism. In contrast to Mary Cassatt, Bellany often focused on rather morbid themes such as mortal fear and religious doubt through an autobiographical perspective and the use of esoteric but decipherable system of symbols. Therefore, even though Bellany could be regarded as a Realist, his work centrals a spiritual aspect.
Bellany’s awe-inspiring portrait of his late grandmother “The Bereaved One” (1968) shows his grandmother propped up straight in her bed, gazing towards the viewer with a bible on her knee. The symbol of the bed could be representing her deathbed, as the theme of death is apparent –making up the background to his grandmother who had been recently widowed. Deep tones of blue and grey are used to denote the feeling of serenity and death, and contrast with Cassatt's bright, blissful tones.
The gravity of self-knowledge through anguish is manifest in the grandmother’s stare as she looks towards the observer and towards her own death. Even though Cassatt and Bellany belong to two completely different movements and time periods, both use bold brush strokes to amplify the different tones of light shifting across the painting. Bellany takes this use of strong brush strokes to the extreme, adding a dishevelled manner to the portrait. This conveys the rough background to Bellany’s grandmother’s life.

Both Cassatt and Bellany have managed to give the observer a feeling of family bonds, but through two very different ways. While Mary Cassatt was successful in portraying an elegant image of a middle class sophisticated lifestyle as well as creating a warm, domestic sentiment; John Bellany also successfully conveys a familial essence but by using true, humanistic techniques. It may also be noted that while Cassatt puts across the ideas of changing personalities through the progression of time, Bellany is getting us to think about the reflection that comes with mortality. However, I think that both artists have managed to lucratively convey their ideas on familial sentiments.…...

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