During the final decades of her life, Mary Cassatt lived at Chateau de Beaufresne in the town named Le Mesnil-Theribus in the Oise, north east of Paris. She first saw the Chateau in 1891 while the Cassatt family summered at Chateau Bachivillers a few kilometers away. The 17th c. hunting lodge known as Chateau de Beaufresne was for sale and Mary began inquiries.
During the summer of 1892, Mary again rented Chateau Bachivillers while she painted the three panels of the mural “Modern Woman” for the Chicago World’s Fair which opened May 1, 1893. The mural was 58 feet by 12 feet and apparently was mishandled and lost after the Exposition closed October 30th.
The timeline for Mary Cassatt’s life at the National Gallery of Art website states she acquired Chateau de Beaufresne in 1894, but another source* indicates she was already directing repairs and renovations at the Chateau de Beaufresne during the summer of 1892 while she was renting the nearby Chateau Bachivillers.
*(McKown, Robin. The World of Mary Cassatt, Thos. Crowell Co. 1972, p. 140.)
Many artists and collectors visited Cassatt during the years she lived at her beloved country home. Among them, Mary’s dear friend Edgar Degas visited often.
In 2002, I visited the Chateau to follow the footsteps of this beloved American painter. The modest-sized chateau is set in swathe of lawns and woods with a stream cutting across the lower estate. The building is currently used as an agricultural education center. When we arrived by car from nearby Gerberoy, students of the eco-institute were slamming a soccer ball around on the back lawn. A few were sitting on upper window sills, a perch with a hawk’s view of arriving visitors.
The rear chateau is open to the sunshine while the front is shadowed by tall trees. Two towers rise on each side of the chateau’s façade, each topped with a cupola. External modern staircases are affixed to the towers, for exit in case of fire.
Mary died June 14, 1926 and her grave is in the village cemetery accessed by a footpath from the Chateau. A small patch of dark evergreen bushes shields the Cassatt family tomb. The grave tablets are plain granite which time has covered with lichen. On the stones are carved the names Mary, Lydia, Mother, Father, Robert.