J. S. Sargent - The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit - 1882

J. S. Sargent - The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit - 1882

John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925) was perhaps the greatest portrait painter of the nineteenth century. August Rodin called him “The Van Dyck of our time.” Sargent also excelled at landscapes in oil and watercolor.  Born in Florence to American expatriate parents, Sargent trained in Paris at the atelier of M. Carolus-Duran. He also attend the École des Beaux-Arts and the atelier of Léon Bonnat. Sargent was a gifted draftsman, designer, and colorist. With his bravura brush handling and a refined  aesthetic, Sargent traveled throughout Europe and America painting the elite of the Gilded Age. Some of his best work, however, is more personal:  portraits of his writer, musician, and artist friends as well as landscapes, and figures in plein air.

Sargent made the most of his time in Paris, learning from the old masters and from contemporary artists. He copied in the Louvre and painted using the sight-size method taught at the Paris Seminar.  William Rothenstein a British portrait artist who had worked with Sargent explains: “Sargent, when he painted the size of life, placed his canvas on a level with the model, walked back until canvas and sitter were equal before the eye, and was able to estimate the construction and values of his representation.  Painters often deplore the loss of tradition, and speak with regret of the days when artists ground their own colours; but knowledge of the visual methods of the older painters, rather than of their technical practices, seems to me of equal, if not greater importance.”

Sargent in his Paris Studio