Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Self Portrait, 1906
oil on canvas
Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Singer Sargent (January 12, 1856 – April 14, 1925) was the most successful portrait painter of his era, as well as a gifted landscape painter and watercolorist. Sargent was born in Florence, Italy to American parents.
Sargent studied in Italy and Germany, and then in Paris under Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran.
(Copyright © 2002-2008 www.johnsingersargent.org)
Living in Western Europe for much of his life, John Singer Sargent became one of the world's greatest portraitists and muralists of his time. With his virtuoso handling of paint and ingenious compositions, he brilliantly captured his sitter's character, often focusing on their aristocratic refinement and individual hauteur. As ARC Chairman Fred Ross notes: "The power of his compositions are legendary, and give his work a wall presence that surpasses most other artists from any period. He is perhaps the most sought after American artist of his time and his major works sell for many millions of dollars in the major auction houses of New York."
But his career was not without scandal.

Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), 1884
oil on canvas
Manhattan: Metropolitan Museum of Art
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As early as 1882, Sargent had a great desire to paint the portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau (1859-1915). Madame Gautreau was an American from New Orleans and moved to Paris with her French mother after the death of her father. Not long after, she married the banker Pierre Gautreau and quickly established herself in Parisian society pages. Madame Gautreau did not commission Sargent. Instead, he was able to obtain an introduction and persuade her to let him paint her portrait. The finished product was exhibited in the Salon of 1884 as Portrait de Mme ***, now known as Madame X.

Study of Mme Gatreau, c.1884
By John Singer Sargent
© Tate in association with The Art Group Limited,
London 2005

The painting caused a great deal of horror and scandal. The original portrait showed Madame Gautreau with her right shoulder strap erotically slipped over her shoulder. This eroticism, combined with her grave flesh tones, proved too much for conservative critics.

Diven's reproduction of the "Salon" version
of Sargent's "Portrait of Madame X",
one-man theatrical show
written and performed by artist and actor Bob Diven
(From bobdiven.com)

Not long after the scandal, Sargent moved to London where he would live for the rest of his life. He kept the Portrait of Madame X, and more than twenty years later, he sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Writing to the museum's director Edward Robinson in 1916, Sargent wrote: "I suppose it is the best thing I have done."
(From Art Renewal Center)

Madame X image and essay about the painting.
Essay: Sargent's 'Madame X'; or, Assertion and Retreat in Woman.
Gustave Courtois' Madame Gauthereau.
John Singer Sargent's Studies for Madame X
(By: Natasha Wallace Copyright 1998-2008)
Madame X, (From © 2007 Bruce MacEvoy)

John Singer Sargent in his studio with Portrait of Madame X
Image courtesy of Don Kurtz
From Art Renewal Center

It took well over a year to complete the painting. The first version of the portrait of Madame Gautreau, with her famously plunging neckline, white-powdered skin, and arrogantly cocked head, featured an off-the-shoulder strap which made the overall effect even more daring and sensual. He soon changed the strap to try to dampen the furor but the damaged had been done. French commissions dried up and he even admitted to friend Edmund Gosse in 1885 that he contemplated giving up painting for music or business.
Writing of the reaction of visitors, Judith Gautier observed: "Is it a woman? a chimera, the figure of a unicorn rearing as on a heraldic coat of arms or perhaps the work of some oriental decorative artist to whom the human form is forbidden and who, wishing to be reminded of woman, has drawn the delicious arabesque? No, it is none of these things, but rather the precise image of a modern woman scrupulously drawn by a painter who is a master of his art." [40] Prior to the Mme. X. scandal of 1884, he had painted exotic beauties such as Rosina Ferrara of Capri, and the Spanish expatriate model, Carmela Bertagna, but the earlier pictures had not been intended for broad public reception. Sargent kept the painting prominently displayed in his London studio until he sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1916, a few months after her death.

Morning Walk
Oil on canvas, 1888
The model is the painter's sister, Violet.
Source: originally posted to Flickr
as John Singer Sargent: Morning Walk by freeparking

From 1907 on, Sargent largely forsook portrait painting and focused on landscapes in his later years; Sargent made numerous visits to the United States in the last decade of his life, including a stay of two full years from 1915-1917.

Egyptians Raising Water from the Nile
Watercolor and pencil on paper laid down on board,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan

During Sargent's long career, he painted more than 2,000 watercolors, roving from the English countryside to Venice to the Tyrol, Corfu, the Middle East, Montana, Maine, and Florida, and each destination offered pictorial stimulation and treasure. Even at his leisure, in escaping the pressures of the portrait studio, he painted with restless intensity, often painting from morning until night.
His hundreds of watercolors of Venice are especially notable, many done from the perspective of a gondola. His colors were sometimes extremely vivid and as one reviewer noted, “Everything is given with the intensity of a dream.”[68] In the Middle East and North Africa, Sargent painted Bedouins, goatherds, and fisherman. In the last decade of his life, he produced many watercolors in Maine, Florida, and in the American West, of fauna, flora, and native peoples.
With his watercolors, Sargent was able to indulge his earliest artistic inclinations for nature, architecture, exotic peoples, and noble mountain landscapes. And it is in some of his late works where one senses Sargent painting most purely for himself. His watercolors were executed with a joyful fluidness. He also painted extensively family, friends, gardens, and fountains. In watercolors, he playfully portrayed his friends and family dressed in Orientalist costume, relaxing in brightly lit landscapes that allowed for a more vivid palette and experimental handling than did his commissions (The Chess Game, 1906). His first major solo exhibit of watercolor works was at the Carfax Gallery in London in 1905. In 1909, he exhibited eighty-six watercolors in New York City, eighty-three of which were bought by the Brooklyn Museum. Evan Charteris wrote in 1927:
”To live with Sargent’s water-colours is to live with sunshine captured and held, with the luster of a bright and legible world, ‘the refluent shade’ and ‘the Ambient ardours of the noon.’”
Upon his return to England 1918 after a visit to the U.S., Sargent was commissioned as a war artist by the British Ministry of Information. In his large painting Gassed and in many watercolors, he depicted scenes from the Great War.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Selected Works:

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, 1882
oil on canvas
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Source The Yorck Project
Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Image of the painting, and an essay on it from jssgallery.org

John Singer Sargent - Gallery of 809 paintings
(From johnsingersargent.org)

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, © 2007 Bruce MacEvoy

(Copyright©1998-2006 Teej Weems)

John Singer Sargent - Wikimedia Commons - Works and drawings
(From wikimedia.org)

Brian Yoder's GoodArt Gallery: Sargent Murals
(From goodart.org)

John Singer Sargent Images
(From artchive.com):
1877 Fanny Watts
c. 1879 Carmela Bertagna
1880 El Jaleo
c. 1880-82 Madame Errazuriz
1882 The Daughters of Edward D. Boit
1882 The Daughters of Edward D. Boit (detail)
1883 Mrs Henry White
c. 1884 Garden Study of the Vickers Children
1884 Madame Pierre Gautreau (Madame X)
c. 1884 Madame Gautreau
1885 Claude Monet Painting in a Garden Near Giverny
1887 Mrs Charles Inches
1887 Mrs Henry Marquand
1888 Isabella Stewart Gardner
1888 Mrs. Adrian Iselin
1889 Paul Helleu Sketching with his Wife
1889 Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth
c. 1892-93 Lady Agnew of Lochnaw
1899 Mrs. Joshua Montgomery Sears
c. 1902 Spanish Fountain
1908 White Ships
1911 Carrara: Workmen

Artist Letters
Courtesy of Don Kurtz
(From ARC)

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