Yesterday I saw a wonderful impersonator enact Mary Cassatt's journey from Pennsylvania to Paris as she pursued her dream of becoming a professional artist. Even the male artists who became Cassatt's friends and compatriots in Paris (Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas and others) could hardly make a living. A woman surely couldn't, and she had a difficult time just being accepted as a professional.
Today, however, we know about her wonderful paintings and consider her one of the greats. We also consider her Paris friends, the Impressionists, some of the premier artists—and yet they could barely feed themselves and their families unless they had wealthy families. Cassatt never married, and she came from a wealthy family; so that problem was one she didn't have. But many of the others did. She did have all the gender barriers other women faced in her time (she died in 1926 just after women got the right to vote in the U.S., something for which she spoke out).
Doesn't it give us a perspective to think that in their time, these artists could barely get their works into the salons of the day? Now those same works go for thousands and thousands of dollars. It's also a reminder that there often exist barriers of one kind or another when we pursue dreams. We also can remember to take a long view on some of the things about which we worry. Some things simply don't change overnight. Time often makes a difference.
Reading history or even historical fiction, seeing impersonations or watching period movies and TV shows—these can all serve as reminders of some of life's basic questions and lessons. It's good to remember this as we pursue our own dreams. Let's keep a long view.
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