Mary Cassatt Still Life


  • 18×24 black paper
  • Oil pastels
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Interesting Object (avoid simple rectangles like books or cellphones)

Born on May 22, 1844, in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, Mary Cassatt was one of the leading artists in the Impressionist movement of the later part of the 1800s. Moving to Paris, her home for the rest of her life, she was befriended by Edgar Degas. After 1910, her increasingly poor eyesight virtually put an end to her serious painting, and she died in 1926. (

Mary Cassatt is famous for her expressive portraits, mostly of mother and children.  For this project however we will be looking at her technique with oil pastels.  Take a look at the drawing below entitled “A Kiss for Baby Anne No.3.”


Mary Cassatt’s layering of pastels creates a beautiful and complex weaving of colors.  Not only do the lines create color, but they show us the form of her subject matter.  Her marks wrap around the two figures and show how they occupy a three dimensional space.  We will be using this same technique of layering and wrapping with an inanimate object.

Think of an item that is important to you and that you would feel comfortable bringing to school and keeping in your locker.  Try to avoid simple rectangular shapes like a book or your cellphone.  This will be the subject matter for our next drawing.

Place your object on the table in front of you, angle it so that you create an interesting composition.  Sketch your object on the black paper in pencil first.  Make sure it is large enough so that it takes up the whole paper.

Next, use the oil pastels to begin layering color on your object.  Rather than “coloring in” your object lay down color one line at a time.  Wrap your lines around your object so that they show how your object is occupying a three dimensional space.  Also, try to use at least three different pastels for each color on your object.  Lastly, don’t be afraid to let the paper peek through every once and while.  If you look closely at Mary Cassatt’s drawing you can see where the paper sneaks through.


  • Your drawing must be from observation
  • Your object must be completely covered in lines and color
  • Layering of color in order to create complex colors must be apparent
  • Lines should wrap around form of the object

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