John Sargent. Great American Impressionist

John Sargent. Self portrait. 1892
John Sargent. Self portrait. 1892. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
John Sargent (1856-1925) was sure that he would be a portrait painter the whole life. The career shaped well. Aristocrats lined up to order a portrait from him.

However, once the society thought that the artist crossed the line. Now, it’s hard for us to understand why the painting “Madame X” was so unacceptable. Truly speaking, in the original version the heroine had one of her shoulder straps down. Sargent “raised” it later but it didn’t save the situation. There were no more orders.

John Sargent. Madame X. 1878
John Sargent. Madame X. 1878. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
What was the indecency seen by the public? The fact was that Sargent portrayed the model standing in a too confident posture. Moreover, translucent skin and pink ear are very eloquent.

The picture seems to say that this woman, being extremely sexual, has no objections to accepting the courtship of other men. Despite being married. Unfortunately, contemporaries missed the masterpiece behind this scandal. A dark dress, light skin, a dynamic posture – a simple combination, which could be found by the most talented masters only. But every cloud has a silver lining. In return,
Sargent received freedom. He began to experiment more with impressionism. To paint children in spontaneous situations. That’s how the work “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” appeared. Sargent wanted to catch a certain moment of twilight.
Therefore, it worked only 2 minutes a day when the lighting was appropriate. He worked in summer and in autumn. And when the flowers withered, he replaced them with artificial ones.
John Sargent. Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. 1885-1886
John Sargent. Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. 1885-1886. The Tate Gallery, London.
In his last decades, Sargent acquired the taste of freedom so much that he began to refuse making portraits. Although his reputation had already been restored. He even fluffed off a client rudely, saying that he would paint her wicket-gate. with greater pleasure than her face.
John Sargent. White Ships. 1908.
John Sargent. White Ships. 1908. The Brooklyn Museum, USA.
Contemporaries treated Sargent with irony. Considering him outdated in the age of modernism. But time has set things straight.


Nowadays, his works cost no less than the paintings of the most famous modernists. And the public affection goes without saying. The exhibitions with his works are always sold out.


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Photos: Wikimedia Commons.

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