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

Anders Zorn

Anders Zorn

Armand Cabrera

Anders Zorn was born in Mora, Sweden on February 18, 1860. Although his mother never married Zorn’s father and Anders never met him, Anders was acknowledged and allowed to carry his father’s name. His grandparents raised Zorn. At the age of 15, Zorn attended the Royal Academy in Stockholm.

His initial interest was sculpture, but he later switched to watercolors. In 1880, one of his watercolor paintings was recognized at the student exhibition. This introduced him to Stockholm society and many commissions soon followed. Zorn married Emma Lamm in 1885.

In 1887, the Zorn’s spent time in St. Ives in Cornwall, England. It was here he changed his medium to oils. His second oil painting was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1888 and was bought by the French State.

Zorn’s oil portraits launched him into international acclaim. The use of a limited palette of red, yellow, black and white added an economy and unity to his paintings. His ability to capture the individual character of his models and his bravura brushwork attracted many patrons.

Zorn also embraced naturalism; painting models outdoors or in natural settings for the sitter instead of the artist’s studio.

In 1893, Zorn was chosen to supervise the Columbian World Fair in Chicago, Illinois. This was the first of many lucrative trips to the USA for Zorn and his wife. He received many portrait commissions from American society—including several Presidents and Isabella Stewart Gardner, the most prominent American art patron of the time.

In 1896, the Zorn’s returned to Sweden and began to build Zorngarden in Mora. The Zorn’s helped to preserve folk culture of Mora, establishing a music contest and schools in the area. Zorn is credited with creating a folk music revival in Sweden. Zorn was also a successful sculptor and etcher producing nearly 300 etchings in his career.

Zorn died on August 22,1920.

Emma survived Anders by 21 years. She created a museum in his honor and continued the philanthropic work to preserve the ancient culture of Dalarna, and the folk dialect and traditions of Mora started with her husband.

Zorn Swedish Painter and World Traveler
Gerda Boethius
English Text

Anders ZornAlbert Engstrom
Swedish Text

Zorn’s Engraved Work
Two Volumes
Karl Asplund
English Text

Where others found inspiration in dreams I found it in Nature. Many have called that a lack of imagination. I gladly call it a love of reality.~ Anders Zorn

Robert Henri

Armand Cabrera

Robert Henri was born Robert Henry Cozad in Cincinnati Ohio in 1865. His father

was a real estate developer and gambler. His father shot and killed a man over a land dispute and the family, to avoid the controversy,moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey and changed their names. In 1886 Henri enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy studying under Thomas Hovenden and Thomas Anshutz. In 1888 he travelled to Europe to Study in Paris at the Academie Julian under Adolphe-William Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury. He also painted outdoors in Concarneau during his summers and in 1891 enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts for a year.

In 1892 Henri returned to the United States and continued his study at the Pennsylvania Academy under Robert Vonnoh. At the same time he began teaching at the School of Design for Women. He kept this position until 1985.

In 1900 Henri moved to New York City and was hired by William Merritt Chase to teach at the New York School of Art which had been founded by Chase. Within a year Chase and Henri were at odds about the curriculum, with Henri de-emphasizing the importance of draftsmanship and technique for a freer style. The disagreements escalated until Chase ended up leaving the school in 1907.
After being elected to the National Academy of Design in 1906, Henri became embittered with the refusal of one of his pieces for the 1907 show. In response he organized the first show of The Eight in February 1908. The Eight were Robert Henri, William Glackens, Everett Shinn, George Luks, John Sloan, Arthur Davies Maurice Prendergast and Ernest Lawson. Their work focused on urban settings and the seedier side of life in the city. The movement toward this gritty realism became known as the Ashcan school. Henri, helped organized many important shows and art societies during the beginning of the twentieth century mostly in response to what he felt was a confining and overly expensive jury system for the older more established art groups and shows.

In 1915 Henri began to teach at the Art Students League in New York and here he would influence many generations of painters with his passionate ideas about art. His teachings were collected by Margery Ryerson in book form and published as the Art Spirit in 1923. It has stayed in print since that time, extending Henri’s teaching to this day, as new generations read and pass on his ideals. Henri left the Art League in 1927 and died in 1929 at the age of 64.


Robert Henri His Life and Art
Bennard B. Perlman
Horizon Press 1884/ Dover Publications 1991

American Impressionism
William Gerdts
Abbeville Press 1984

The Art Spirit
Robet Henri
Icon Editions 1984
Brush strokes carry a message whether you will it or not. The stroke is just like the artist at the time he makes it. All the certainties, all the uncertainties, all the bigness of his spirit and all the littleness are in it. —– Robert Henri

Portrait of Maquoketa Rose Frantzen

A Review
by Armand Cabrera

Rose Frantzen’s show is a stunning tour de force of alla prima portrait painting. One hundred and eighty 12×12 portraits painted on what looks like half inch panels which are not framed. Each portrait was painted in four or five hours from life. Anyone willing to take the time to sit for her was accepted.

What emerges besides the individual personalities is a sensitive group portrait of a town. You begin to get the sense of a relatively small community (population 5917). Frantzen’s ability to record the subtleties of each person’s skin tones is amazing. Each portrait captures a moment in time with the sitter, without excessive flattery.

When you think of what it would take to paint 180 portraits from life in a year’s time you understand the power of her accomplishment. Now add to that the level of quality of these paintings and you realize you are standing before something special. This woman is truly one of the best painters in the country at this time. Her abilities are formidable, combining broad facile brushwork with a beautiful color sense and keen eye for values.

If you are living in the Mid-Atlantic Area, or have the means to travel here from farther away, this is a chance to see a living painters work as accomplished as Sargent or Beaux. The show is on display at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery until July 5 2010, don’t miss it. The show is accompanied by a hardcover catalog which has faithfully captured the paintings.

All images in this review are by Rose Frantzen the copyrights are held by her.

Valentin Serov

by Armand Cabrera

Valentin Serov was born on January 7, 1865 In Saint Petersburg. His father Alexander Serov was a composer and music critic and his mother Valentina was a pianist. Serov’s father died when he was 6. His family moved to Munich and then Paris and at 9 Serov took lessons from Repin at his Paris studio learning to draw from casts and paint from life.

His family returned to Russia a year later first to Kiev then to Moscow. In Moscow Serov resumed studies with Repin for two more years. In 1880 Repin sent Serov to the Academy in Saint Petersburg for formal training under Pavel Christiakov. Serov studied at the Academy for five years.

In 1889 Serov married Olga Trubnikova.
He won a medal for his portrait of Angelo Masini in 1890 at the Moscow Society of Art Lovers. In 1897 he began teaching at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In 1900 Serov received the Grand Medal of Honor at the Paris World Exhibition for his portrait of Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich.


Serov is considered the first Russian Portraitist to break from academic tradition and adopt a modern style. He worked as an impressionist using his academic training as an anchor for his expressive handling. His paintings captured the character of the sitter with bravura brushwork and strong sensitivity to color and shape over detail. He quickly became a much sought after portraitist.


Serov’s portraits have an immediacy and intimacy to them they seem to be snapshots of a moment in time with the sitter. This seemingly casual approach and required much effort on the artists part and his paintings often took weeks and sometimes months to complete.

Valentin Serov died in Moscow on November 22, 1911 at the age of 46.


Valentin Serov
Dimitri Sarabyanov and GrigoryArbuzov
1982 Aurora Publishing

The Itinerants The masters of Russian Realism
Elena Nesterova
1996 Aurora Publishing



Any human face is so complex and so unique that you can always find in it traits worthy of portrayal be they good or bad. For my part, each time I appraise a person’s face I am inspired, you might even say carried away, not by his or her outer aspect which is trivial, but by the characterization it can be given on canvas.~ Valentin Serov