...Anna found it difficult to study art in 19th Century America. Opportunities were severely limited and women were forbidden from painting nudes altogether because the fine line between portraiture and depravity was yet to be established. Even if a woman had the income and independence to pursue a career as an artist, many of the great academies refused to admit them on the grounds of morality. And if by some chance a woman was admitted to study art, she would find her education sorely inadequate to the men’s classes that were being held at the same time, right upstairs.
Determined to forge her own artistic path, Anna found a loophole by studying anatomy at the new Women’s College of Pennsylvania until the family relocated to Europe when she was 20.
It was in London that she met her mentor, lover and husband, Henry Merritt. Henry was a painter, art restorer and noted art critic. Anna was starting to gain recognition for her portraits of appropriately clad people, but when she and Henry married in 1877, she gave up her career to become a wife.
Henry died after just three months of wedded bliss. Anna, desperate for a way to make a living, started painting again. She never remarried, which, in such an era, can only be seen as the ultimate commitment to her art.
In 1885 she painted what I think is one of the most beautiful pieces of art I have ever seen, and I am desperately searching for a print of it as I write this. Her painting Eve Overcome with Remorse, is a devastating depiction of the first woman with a half-eaten apple on the ground, her head in her hands, her red hair flowing over her shoulders. It won a medal when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy that same year, but attracted censure because, guess why: Eve was nude, meaning Anna had used a nude model, meaning her delicate femininity had been jeopardized during the painting of such a stunning, iconographic artwork.
Eve Overcome with Remorse was the first work by a woman ever purchased by the British government.
[http://arcadiasystems.org/academia/cassatt6g.html & http://fracademic.com/dic.nsf/frwiki/1822146]