Thursday, February 17, 2011


Not much time. What follows are three works by an American painter I admire very much, John Singer Sargent. I say "American" painter, since to the best of my knowledge he had an American passport, being the son of an American couple, but I'm inclined to think he thought of himself more as a European. After the death of a sister born earlier, his mother was so distraught that she somehow convinced his father to give up his job as an eye surgeon at the famous Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, PA, and adopt an almost nomadic lifestyle throughout Europe. It is there that John was born, in Florence in 1856, and it was also there that he died, in London in 1925. You should discover Sargent. He crafted around 900 oil paintings and some 2,000 watercolors - there's an ocean of beauty to be discovered there.

First Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. 1885.


Then The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882).


At some point, Sargent became very enamored with all things Spanish. This painting, the psychological aspects of which deserve closer scrutiny, owed much to a Velazquez painting - at least with regards to composition. The beautiful Japanese vases still exist and have even been donated by heirs of the Boit family to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. There they flank this painting, which in 1919 was donated to the museum by the four siblings depicted.

None of these girls would ever marry and they would live lonely lives, with only the two youngest ones, those in the foreground, keeping contact with each other. The two oldest would as adults suffer from debilitating mental illnesses. The names of the girls are Mary Louisa, Julia Overing, Jane Hubbard, and Florence.

It is... as if Sargent has painted here a foreshadowing of these lovely girls' fates. Notice how the older girls seem to be withdrawing already in darkness.

Sad. If it's any consolation for the girls' souls - Sargent has made them immortal.

I suppose this is my favourite. Lady Agnew of Lochnaw. Painted in 1892 and 1893.


Classy Lady. Somehow Sargent has captured here sensuality without the slightest hint of eroticism.

Enjoy, nite. Oh yeah...

... Dead White Male.


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