Painting: Portrait of a Lady

Post-Civil War America was a graceless murk of brownstones, soft-coal soot and ungainly walnut furniture. It was Victorian without even the fun of having royalty, and Critic Lewis Mumford summed up the period in a phrase, "the Brown Decades." By contrast, Europe attracted droves of artists in search of more romantic sensibilities. Of these exiles, none found herself more at home in France, while remaining essentially as American as a Henry James heroine, than Mary Cassatt. As her palette brightened, she became the only U.S. expatriate accepted by the fiercely iconoclastic French...

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