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Colby Museum of Art presents unique collection of Cassatt prints
Mary Cassatt, Peasant Mother and Child, c. 1894. Drypoint and aquatint on paper. Tenth (final) state. 171/4 x 111/4 in. (43.8 x 28.6 cm). The Lunder Collection, 2017.468.

WATERVILLE, ME.- The Colby College Museum of Art, one of the nation’s leading college museums, announced that it is presenting Inside Out: The Prints of Mary Cassatt. On view through November 1, 2021, the exhibit highlights Cassatt’s creative process and her fearless experimentation.

In 2012, Peter and Paula Lunder made an exceptional gift to the Colby Museum with the acquisition of forty-four prints by Cassatt. This extraordinary group of works included a selection of rare trial proofs that document her first forays into printmaking.

Cassatt’s trial proofs and early-state impressions reveal her step-by-step process. As viewers look at them they’ll see her learning and taking risks, fearlessly innovating and experimenting, and in doing so creating some of her most intimate and captivating works of art.

The experimental nature of these prints, combined with an attention on modern urban women, made these works quite unusual in their time. Yet, today, those very qualities of domesticity, intimacy, and privacy could be seen as reinforcing stereotypes of women. This exhibition invites viewers to reflect on how we each experience family, caregiving, and identity in our own lives, and to explore Cassatt’s extraordinary capacity to evoke mood, feeling, and setting.

Born into an upper-class family in Pennsylvania, Mary Cassatt (1844–1926) trained as an artist at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and then undertook further studies in Europe. She settled in Paris in 1874, and soon her parents and sister joined her there. Prevailing norms of the time limited Cassatt, a woman artist, with regard to the subject matter she could depict and the social spaces she could frequent. As an Impressionist printmaker, she focused on the domestic lives, social rituals, and leisure activities of affluent women in nineteenth-century Paris.

Cassatt was overjoyed when, in 1877, the artist Edgar Degas invited her to exhibit with the Impressionists, then the most radical artist group in Paris. She remarked years later about that moment: “At last I could work with absolute independence.” Free from the rigid conventions of the Paris Salon (the central venue in which artists showed their work at the time), Cassatt began to pursue her own vision. She reimagined her approach to art, and in 1879 she turned toward printmaking as a means to express her new artistic aspirations.

Inside Out: The Prints of Mary Cassatt was co-curated by Justin McCann, Lunder Curator for Whistler Studies at Colby College Museum of Art, and Shalini Le Gall, Chief Curator, Susan Donnell and Harry W. Konkel Curator of European Art, and Director of Academic Engagement at the Portland Museum of Art.

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