Mary Cassatt (1845-1926) was born in Pennsylvania. Her father was a stockbroker and financier. When Mary was a child the family often traveled throughout Europe, even living in France and Germany for four years. At the age of 15 she decided that she would become an artist and in 1861 enrolled in Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. But she felt she needed to study in Europe. In 1866 she began lessons in Paris. In 1868 she exhibited for the first time at the Salon.
Mary often saw the works of Edouard Manet in Paris and she was greatly influenced by his works.
In 1870 she had to return to the U.S. because of the Franco-Prussian War. She was very unhappy and nearly gave up painting. In 1871 she was able to return to Europe and in 1874 settled permanantly in Paris.
In 1877 Mary met Edgar Degas who advised her to join the Impressionists. In her own words, “I accepted with joy. Now I could work with absolute independence without considering the opinion of a jury. I had already recognized who were my true masters. I admired Manet, Courbet, and Degas. I took leave of conventional art. I began to live.”
"Sleepy Baby" is a typical example of Mary's work. It was painted in 1910 and the medium is pastels on paper. It hangs in the Dallas Museum of Art. She started on the mother-child theme in the 1880s and after 1900 concentrated solely on that theme and is these are her most well known paintings.