Mary Cassatt and objet trouvé assemblage

August 15, 2018


Mary Cassatt’s largest work of her career was a 58' x 12' triptych. The center panel was titled Young Women Plucking the Fruits of Knowledge or Science; the left-hand panel, Young Girls Pursuing Fame; the right-hand panel, Arts, Music, Dancing.


The center panel had larger-than-life figures, and bright yellow-greens, intense blues, deep plum, purple, peach. Women were painted in triads. This structure was dynamic, with the apex of each triangle pointing upwards, matching Cassatt’s upward thinking in 1893 about women’s capabilities. The right and left panels were built on diagonals pointing towards the center.


From the Collection of James Stillman, Gift of Dr. Ernest G. Stillman, 1922 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Mary Cassatt, Portrait of a Young Girl


Although this historic triptych is unaccounted for today, Cassatt wanted women to be seen, both in spirit and in physical appearance, as capable of modern, lofty pursuits. Cassatt’s self-assured style is seen in artworks like Portrait of a Young Girl (1899). This piece shows a distinctly confident person, much like the artist herself.


I use color chordally:::as a harmonic structure. I am currently using sets of four colors in a spare linguistics. My exhibit “chance” at the Tweed Museum of Art uses a palette I call “industry!” I worked in the trades when I was younger and this set [black, white, red, yellow] evokes utility/caution/hardware/tools for me.

~Kathy McTavish, Composer and media artist


Objet trouvé is French for an object found and considered aesthetically pleasing—scrappy wood, graceful stair bannisters, heavy plywood, mesh, wire. Once objects for an assemblage are collected, look for relationships between them to create balance and texture.  


Look for common ground in size, thickness, and shape. Build wall assemblages or standing sculptural pieces. For 3D, build a base first. Then with your imagination and chosen material, start constructing upwards and outwards, considering tone, meaning, and, if you choose, an idea or story.


In Louise Nevelson’s Sky Cathedral (1958), she amassed wooden crates/found objects, used the objects to build a floor-to-ceiling monumental assemblage, then painted it black. She sought “the in-between places, the dawns and dusk, the objective world, the heavenly spheres, the places between the land and the sea.”


AJ Atwater teaches studio art classes for women of all skill levels. 


Please reload

More from this Author

Archives by Date

Please reload

Archives by Title or Author