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I Always Loved You: A Story of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas    by Robin Oliveira order for
I Always Loved You
by Robin Oliveira
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

The subtitle of this book is 'A Story of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas'. But this novel offers more than their very interesting stories. It is a portrait of a time of artistic change hard-won by the people involved. It is the story of the difficulty of crafting a work, of the artist striving to go beyond technique to reality.

There are many discussions of what art is and what it is not. And there is the very difficult attempt to describe in words what is going on in the artist's mind when she brings a brush to paper or when he begins to fashion a figure with wire. Author Robin Oliveira has succeeded in bringing us into the minds of these people as they live, work and think their art.

Mary Cassatt was truly a strong woman who had many battles to fight. Most important, of course, was the work of creating, and she had such self-doubt. Then there were her parents, particularly her father, and finally there was Degas, whose work she so admired. He admired her abilities as well as her intellect. But he was scratchy, and though he could comment on others' work, he suffered when called upon to discuss his own. And all of this leaves out the fact that an artist must somehow make a living from her work.

Their good friends Édouard and Eugène Manet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pisarro, Jean Renoir, Claude Monet - and many others whose lives are touched upon here - all have much to tell us about this special period of time, La Belle Époque. Historically we will never know exactly what happened between Cassatt and Degas, but thanks to Oliveira, we have a stunning picture of what their lives might very well have been. Brava!

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