Mary Cassatt, the ‘New Woman’ of Impressionist Art

Mary Cassatt seated in a chair with an umbrella. Verso reads “The only photograph for which she ever posed. Courtesy of Durand-Ruel.” By Durand-Ruel –  The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Although born near Pittsburgh, USA in 1844, Mary Cassatt spent most of her life in France.

For someone who came to epitomise the ‘new woman’ of the time, who never married, and developed a career of their own, it is perhaps no surprise that we find Aquarius rising in her chart.

Aquarius is independent, freedom loving and likes to break new ground, yet can remain quite conservative at heart. This is shown in many aspects of her life. One of her primary subjects was women and their relationship to children, a traditional, genre.

The new feminine

Interestingly as well, we find Neptune in Aquarius in the first house. Neptune I equate with femininity and in Aquarius this is coloured by looking at it in new, independent spirit.

She clearly identified with this. Neptune’s quite tight trine aspect with Mars in Gemini in 5th house, adds much creative flair to her artistic expression. It was fellow impressionist, Degas, who introduced her to pastel and engraving, both genres she went onto master, testifying to her latent abilities.

Mother and Child Before a Pool By Mary Cassatt – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 46.106_transpc002.jpg, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Professional opposition

We also find Saturn quite close to her ascendant in opposition to the Moon in Leo in the 7th house. Saturn here indicates caution and her strong moral fibre, but the opposition to the Moon reveals troubles and frustrations in her life, particularly within herself, in relationships and professional life. The Moon in Leo in itself is naturally creative and artistic.

Both the Moon and Saturn are in good aspect to Uranus in Aries in the 2nd house, further supporting her kind of organic, sensible way of breaking new ground by truly living the part of the ‘new woman’.

Creative releases

Also, Saturn’s trine to Mercury in the 5th house, shows an easy creative release for her through something which is manually dexterous, like painting. Mercury also in good aspect the Moon in Leo supports this release function through some kind of creativity.

Finally, I come to Venus, essentially unaspected in Cancer in the 6th house of work. I found this a little surprising at first, though a prominent Venus isn’t a necessarily a prerequisite for artistic ability.

Enjoying work

Venus in Cancer is tender, likes the home and family and is another symbolic representation of what she painted a lot of, women and children. In the 6th house, this is a classic indication of working artistically, or simply loving work.

Also, an unaspected planet can often ‘shout’ to be heard, so to speak. It may well have spoken to her creatively, but is this Venus also symbolic of the fact that she never married, that she was tied to her work?

So in all, Mary Cassatt may have been something of an enigma. She lived the life of a ‘new woman’, widened the boundaries of art through her involvement in the impressionist movement, yet inwardly, she retained strong moral values and a liking for tradition.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

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