The “Les Amis de Mary Cassatt” Association was created by the Constitutive General Assembly on December 21, 2002, on the initiative of a small group of admirers of the American artist, most of them residing in the Oise area of Picardy, who wanted to raise awareness and restore the memory of Mary Cassatt in this her adopted region of France.
The association was registered at the Oise Prefecture on January 31, 2003. Its aim was to honor and perpetuate the memory of Mary Cassatt. Its head office was located at the Domaine du Colombier in Saint-Léger-en-Bray and its first president was Jean-Eric Ménard, then mayor of the village.
The association’s first resolutions were to establish contact with the Departmental Office of Tourism, the Moulin Vert Association and the General Council of the Oise. The Moulin Vert Association is the current owner of the Château of Beaufresne, Mary Cassatt’s country estate in Mesnil-Théribus. Also to create a website and erect information boards at the two Châteaux where she lived, Bachivillers and Beaufresne and at Mesnil-Théribus’ cemetery where she is buried with members of her family.
An important working meeting took place on February 14, 2006, at the Department of Culture of the General Council of the Oise “to assess the potential of Mary Cassatt in terms of cultural and tourist development for our area”.
A series of recreational and cultural events were imagined, hosted by groups and institutions from different localities of the department, for example the creation of a brochure, exhibitions, concerts and conferences with the association retaining the role of project coordinator.
A collaboration with the Moulin Vert Association, was envisioned, also a development project for part of the property.
Jean-Pierre Chaineaud, mayor of Le Mesnil-Théribus joined the association in 2009 and agreed to become president in a private capacity at the extraordinary general meeting of June 6, 2009, replacing Jean-Eric Ménard. The association was then seven years old: the "age of reason". It had a website and had succeeded in installing three tourist information signs at the Château de Bachivillers, the Château de Beaufresne and the cemetery). It adopted new statutes and its headquarters was established in the town hall of Mesnil-Théribus.
Jean-Pierre Chaineaud immediately became passionate about this new mission, understanding the need to create a future cultural center in memory of Mary Cassatt in her Château de Beaufresne and source grants from local, regional and national agencies and to find American sponsors. The municipalities of Vexin-Thelle and the regional and general councils began to take notice. A grant of 30,000€ was provided by the Communauté de Communes, 7,000€ from the Conseil Géneral of the Oise and an appeal went out to donors.
In 2010 the Moulin Vert Association, the owner of Beaufresne, wanted to make the first floor available to create a Mary Cassatt exhibition space, working in coordination with an agreement with the municipality of Mesnil-Théribus. A museographic and scenographic study was carried out in pursuit of this project but unfortunately the plan was not renewed in 2014.
An exhibition of hats inspired by the works of the artist was planned as well as a redesign of the website. In 2015 the association revised its statutes.
In 2016, during a crucial board meeting on September 24 Jean-Pierre Chaineaud presented the decision of the Moulin Vert to put the Château de Beaufresne up for sale. He announced his forthcoming meeting with their new management in order to submit a proposal for a major undertaking to create a Mary Cassatt Cultural Center in the château and the need to seek funding from various French partners and also Americans.
Jean-Pierre Chaineaud’s presidency was extraordinarily fruitful for the association.
In May 2011 a plant day was organized at the château where “Les Amis de Mary Cassatt” had an information stand. A lecture was given by Marianne Caron as well as the reading of her play Degas et moi.
On June 16, 2013, the Association celebrated its 10-year anniversary in the park of Beaufresne with a lunch for members followed by Mary Cassatt themed activities: games, French songs from 1870 - 1925 and a new reading of Marianne Caron’s play.
On Saturday, November 5, at 8pm, Guy Vadepied, the author of the book Mary Cassatt, The Impressionists and America gave a seminar at the Château de Beaufresne.(Watch the video).
On January 10, 2017, Jean-Pierre Chaineaud passed away at his home. The members of “Les Amis de Mary Cassatt” were shocked and devastated. They had lost a very dear friend, their president and the driving force of the association.
After several months of deep despondency, the members decided to convene a general meeting on April 5, and continue with Jean-Pierre’s vision, with the support of the new mayor of Mesnil-Théribus, Carole Delande and members of the municipal council. Caroline Chaineaud was appointed president, and the board of directors and management was reformulated.
The task was immense but the resolve was firm :
⇒ Create an attractive brochure presenting the project in order to source grants, national but also foreign, especially American, for the acquisition of the Chàteau.de Beaufresne.
⇒ Build a lively and informative website.
⇒ Increase the number of members by attracting political and cultural personalities, historians, writers, but also the inhabitants of Mesnil-Théribus and surrounding villages, by distributing a new membership form and creating an attractive event once a year.
2018: An eventful year for "Les Amis de Mary Cassatt"
The Château de Beaufresne was put up for sale by the Moulin Vert Association, who gave “Les Amis de Mary Cassatt” the task of finding financing for its purchase. The project of creating a Mary Cassatt cultural center in close cooperation with Giverny and Auvers-sur-Oise at the château could thus be realized.
The association assembled a plan of action :
⇒ draft a project proposal for the creation of a place of cultural, artistic and educational exchanges at the Château de Beaufresne.
⇒ furnish plans of the Château.
⇒ study and get an estimate for scenographic and museographic needs.
⇒ cost work to be carried out with a view to find funding from foundations, private institutions, French and American patrons, as well as to the various bodies in the Hauts-de-France region.
Some responses with pledges encouraged further action and it was decided to set up a joint campaign with the Heritage Association or the Dartagnans, a crowdfunding site dedicated to promoting and protecting the environment.
In December the president of the Moulin Vert Association wrote to our president informing her that Beaufresne was no longer for sale but new partnership projects should be set up between the two associations.
The year 2019 was a quiet year for the members of Les Amis de Mary Cassatt , after the stunning decision of the management of the Moulin Vert not to sell the château.
Carole Delande, the mayor of Mesnil-Théribus, renamed the community village school Mary Cassatt during a ceremony attended by the school principal, teaching staff, several regional personalities and members of the association. She also announced the implementation of the long awaited project to install signs at the various entrances to the village announcing ‘Mesnil-Théribus, Mary Cassatt’s village’.
On September 21, Lynne Levesque, an American living in Dieppe, gave a very interesting lecture on Mary Cassatt at the Château de Beaufresne, attended by Carole Delande, Victor Grammatyka, the director of the Moulin Vert and about forty other participants. She related Mary Cassatt’s life story, supported by good documentation emphasizing her personality and the feminine aspect she brought to her painting, the event wrapped up with a reception organized by the Association.
Michel Chacon began in-depth research on Mary Cassatt and Le Mesnil-Théribus with the aim of producing a small book on Mesnil-Théribus at the time of Mary Cassatt. He studied the censuses and the records of the Mesnil-Théribus municipality meetings and thanks to the wonderful assistance of its director Valérie Lagier, was able to comb through all the archives on Mary Cassatt kept at the Franco-American Museum of Blérancourt, He tried to identify Cassatt’s principal models from the registers indicating civil status. He consulted monographs, newspaper clippings and exposition catalogs, thanks to the document library contributed by our members.
The year 2020 was difficult and testing.
Two members of the organization were ill and therefore were unable to be active.
The scheduled general assembly was canceled due to the health crisis, but some other interesting meetings took place.
On January 6 Marijke Chaineaud and Michel Chacon received a visit from two Americans, Arden and Charlie Lewis from Los Angeles who planned to write a play about Mary Cassatt and Mathilde Valet, her faithful companion, This is currently in progress.
On July 8 a meeting took place with Luc Dangeard, the new director of Culture and Heritage at the Moulin Vert Association. He explained his role and detailed his plans for the Château which unfortunately included little involvement with Les Amis de Mary Cassatt.
On October 6 there was a visit from Elizabeth Khawajkie and her husband Patrick from Dinard. They were planning a conference on Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas entitled Giants of American Culture and their love for France, to which Les Amis de Mary Cassatt were invited. Unfortunately, this conference was canceled.
The association was contacted by Katherine Hewitt, an English woman who is writing a book on Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot.
The year 2021 was a mixed year
Jean-Claude Thomas, the faithful secretary of Les Amis de Mary Cassatt since its inception, died in August. Marijke Chaineaud and other members were able to accompany him to his final resting place in the Bachivillers cemetery.
Activity remained limited due to the persistence of the pandemic. Nevertheless, our association was consulted on several occasions. The Films du Tambour de Soie, an independent production company, working on a documentary devoted to impressionist decorative works, requested photographs of the Château de Beaufresne. This film was broadcast on channel 5 on Friday, April 8, 2022 at 11pm. It complemented an exhibition on the same theme which was held at the Orangerie Museum through July 11, 2022.
The British company Seventh Art Productions was developing a film on Mary Cassatt to be broadcast on the big screen in more than 60 countries from the summer of 2022 and asked Les Amis de Mary Cassatt to assist them in obtaining authorization to film the Châteaux of Bachivillers and Beaufresne. On Tuesday, November 9, Marie-Christine Maufus and Michel Chacon guided the filmmakers in the steps of Mary Cassatt at the Château de Bachivillers accompanied by its owner, then to the château, park, cemetery and school at Mesnil-Théribus providing them with a maximum of historic information and photographs.
In September 2021 the radio station Monte le Son was broadcasting from the Maison Avron in Hardivillers and interviewed Michel Chacon who told them about the life of Mary Cassatt.
On September 9 Michel Chacon represented the association at a conference held in Dinard by Dominique Dupuis Labbé, entitled Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, les enfants terribles d’une époque. This invitation followed a meeting we had on 6th October 2020 with Elizabeth Khawajkie and her husband Patrick, members of the Lord Russell Association, who were curious to explore the places frequented by Mary Cassatt.
A similar tour was given to members of the Heraldic and Genealogical Association of the two Vexins on October 9.
The association has been enriched by two new honorary members:
Katherine Spence lives in the United States. She is a former French teacher and is translating the website into English in conjunction with Marie-Christine Maufus.
Joachim Pissarro is a great-grandson of Camille Pissarro. He is a professor of Art History in New York, specializing in impressionism, a co-author of Camille Pissarro’s definitive catalog and an expert in contemporary painting.
Prune Santelli is a new active member and thanks to her professional experience is playing an important role in the layout and formatting of the booklet Le Mesnil-Théribus in the time of Mary Cassatt. Michel Chacon is directing this project and continues enthusiastically with his researches in the archives, cemeteries and town halls and plans a publication in 2024.
Documents to download :