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Degas and Cassatt: Different Perspectives, Part 2: Degas and Cassatt: Sex and the Single Artist

Richard Kendall, curator at large, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown. To celebrate the closing day of its Degas/Cassatt exhibition, October 5, 2014, the National Gallery of Art hosted a public symposium titled Degas and Cassatt: Different Perspectives featuring conservators, curators, and scholars. On view beginning May 11, the exhibition focused on how the relationship between American Mary Cassatt (1844–1926) and Frenchman Edgar Degas (1834–1917) influenced their artistic practices and careers. Cassatt, who had settled in Paris in 1874, first met Degas in 1877. Over the next decade, the two artists engaged in an intense dialogue, turning to each other for advice and challenging each other to experiment with materials and techniques. Both made printmaking an important aspect of their careers and for a time collaborated on their endeavors. Their admiration and support for each other endured long after their art began to head in different directions: Degas continued to acquire Cassatt’s work, while she promoted his to collectors back in the United States. They remained devoted friends for 40 years, until Degas’s death.