American painter, who lived and worked in France as an important member of the impressionist group. Cassatt was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. The daughter of an affluent Pittsburgh businessman, whose French ancestry had endowed him with a passion for that country, she studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and then travelled extensively in Europe, finally settling in Paris in 1874. In that year she had a work accepted at the Salon and in 1877 made the acquaintance of Degas, with whom she was to be on close terms throughout his life. His art and ideas had a considerable influence on her own work; he introduced her to the Impressionists and she participated in the exhibitions of 1879, 1880, 1881 and 1886, refusing to do so in 1882 when Degas did not.
One of the works she showed was The Cup of Tea, a portrait of her sister Lydia in luminescent pinks. Beginning in 1882 Cassatt's style took a new turn. Influenced, like Degas, by Japanese woodcuts, she began to emphasize line over mass and experimented with asymmetric composition—as (The Boating Party) and informal, natural gestures and positions. Portrayals of mothers and children in intimate relationship and domestic settings became her theme. Her portraits were not commissioned; instead, she used members of her own family as subjects.
France awarded Cassatt the Legion of Honor in 1904; although she had been instrumental in advising the first American collectors of impressionist works, recognition came more slowly in the United States. With loss of sight she was no longer able to paint after 1914. She lived in France most of her life, though her love of her adopted countrymen did not increase with age, and her latter days were clouded with bitterness. She died in June 14, 1926, in Château de Beaufresne, near Paris.