Sunday, February 28, 2010

Being a native of the Chicago area, I was surprised to read about the magnificence that was the Columbian’s exposition and fair in Chicago in 1893. What I found even more interesting was how women were given the chance to demonstrate their abilities to spectators considering the fact that they were constantly denied the same opportunities as males in the art world. On this website I found more information on Mary Cassatt who was asked to create a mural for the fair. The mural was placed over the entrance to the Gallery of Honor in the Women's Building. It was 58 x 12 feet, but unfortunately was taken down and lost at the same time as the Women’s building.
The theme of her mural was “Modern Women” which went very well with the theme of the Women’s Building showcasing the advancement of women. The panel in the center of the mural was titled Young Women Plucking the Fruits of Knowledge or Science which depicted a group of women plucking fruit from the knowledge tree and passing it along to the younger generations. The other panels included Young Girls Pursuing Fame and young women engaged with the Arts, Music, Dancing in the left and right panels, respectively.
What really captured my interest on this mural is the fact that instead of creating a scandal demanding the rights of women to be recognized, Cassatt creatively and explicitly encouraged women to not let society keep them enclosed in their traditional “cult of domesticity.” She demonstrated her own independence and self confidence depicting bright colors and modern beliefs of the capabilities of women. Although there were some critics of the bright and intense colors she used, Cassatt claimed “I have tried to make the general effect as bright, as gay, as amusing as possible. The occasion is one of rejoicing, a great national fete.”
However, although I liked the message of respect for women depicted by the mural, I couldn’t find anything discussing whether or not she was referring to women of all color, or just white women. Although it was radical enough for that period of time, I think it would have been more interesting and more appealing since more people would be able to relate to it, making the purpose behind the mural even stronger.

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