John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent
Armand Cabrera

John Singer Sargent was born on the 12th of January 1856 in Florence Italy. His parents had left America to live in Europe. Because the family constantly traveled, Sargent developed few ties to any one country. He spoke four languages, played the piano and mandolin expertly, and held a great knowledge of literature and art.

Sargent enrolled in the Atelier of Carolus Duran when he was 18 years old. Duran’s approach to painting was to stress accurate values combined with free and rapid brushwork, Au Premier Coup. Sargent quickly rose to the top of his class. His bravura style and naturalist subject matter was well received by critics. Sargent painted with Monet; however, he was never an Impressionist. He was too grounded in academic training to relinquish good drawing and strong value plans for color alone.

In the beginning of his career, Sargent painted society portraits. He created a scandal when he painted a famous society woman in a risky pose with one strap of her dress fallen off her shoulder. The now famous portrait of Madame X seems tame by today’s standards of taste. At that time period, the painting caused such a stir that Sargent was forced to flee Paris for London.

As a portrait painter, Sargent had no equal. His ability to render the subtlest expressions kept him busy throughout his career. His seemingly effortless brushwork garnered him praise and criticism. Sergent’s most vocal critics claimed he had too much facility and no content in his work.

At the peak of his success in 1907, Sargent abandoned painting portraits. His interest in his mural projects and landscape paintings replaced his need for commissioned work. Sergent’s successes provided sufficient income to stick to his principles…except in a few rare occasions. Sargent’s landscape and figure paintings are a tour de force of bravura painting. His watercolors of Venetian scenes are especially fine examples of this style.

John Singer Sargent died in 1925 at the age of sixty.


John Singer Sargent Catalogue Raisonné Project (In Four Volumes)
Elaine Kilmurray and Richard Ormond
Yale University Press

Sargent Abroad
Elaine Kilmurray and Richard Ormond
Yale University Press

John Singer Sargent
Carter Ratcliff
Abbeville/ Artabras

QuoteOnly after years of the contemplation of Nature can the process of selection become so sure an instinct; and a handling so spontaneous and so freed from the commonplaces is final mastery, the result of long artistic training.
~John Singer Sargent

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