Tag Archives: John Singer Sargent

#FineArtFriday: The Gondoliers’ Siesta, John Singer Sargent 1904 

The Gondoliers’ Siesta, John Singer Sargent 1904  

Artist: John Singer Sargent  (1856–1925)

Title: English: Gondoliers’ Siesta

Date: circa 1904

Medium: watercolor

Dimensions: 35.6 x 50.8 cm

Collection: Private collection, courtesy of Adelson Galleries

Current location: New York

Source/Photographer   Beyeler Foundation

What I Love About this Painting:

John Singer Sargent shows us a moment in time, set in Venice of 1904. It is an image capturing the heat of midday and the well-deserved rest of two men whose lives are spent on the water. They are well-employed, earning a good living by ferrying passengers from one end of town to another. During their heyday as a means of public transports, teams of four men would share ownership of a gondola — three oarsmen (gondoliers) and a fourth person, primarily shore based and responsible for the booking and administration of the gondola (Il Rosso Riserva).

About Singer’s Watercolors, via Wikipedia:

During Sargent’s long career, he painted more than 2,000 watercolors, roving from the English countryside to Venice to the Tyrol, Corfu, the Middle East, Montana, Maine, and Florida. Each destination offered pictorial stimulation and treasure. Even at his leisure, in escaping the pressures of the portrait studio, he painted with restless intensity, often painting from morning until night.

His hundreds of watercolors of Venice are especially notable, many done from the perspective of a gondola. His colors were sometimes extremely vivid and as one reviewer noted, “Everything is given with the intensity of a dream.” In the Middle East and North Africa Sargent painted Bedouins, goatherds, and fisherman. In the last decade of his life, he produced many watercolors in Maine, Florida, and in the American West, of fauna, flora, and native peoples.

With his watercolors, Sargent was able to indulge his earliest artistic inclinations for nature, architecture, exotic peoples, and noble mountain landscapes. And it is in some of his late works where one senses Sargent painting most purely for himself. His watercolors were executed with a joyful fluidness. He also painted extensively family, friends, gardens, and fountains. In watercolors, he playfully portrayed his friends and family dressed in Orientalist costume, relaxing in brightly lit landscapes that allowed for a more vivid palette and experimental handling than did his commissions (The Chess Game, 1906). His first major solo exhibit of watercolor works was at the Carfax Gallery in London in 1905. In 1909, he exhibited eighty-six watercolors in New York City, eighty-three of which were bought by the Brooklyn Museum. Evan Charteris wrote in 1927:

To live with Sargent’s water-colours is to live with sunshine captured and held, with the luster of a bright and legible world, ‘the refluent shade’ and ‘the Ambient ardours of the noon.’

Although not generally accorded the critical respect given Winslow Homer, perhaps America’s greatest watercolorist, scholarship has revealed that Sargent was fluent in the entire range of opaque and transparent watercolor technique, including the methods used by Homer.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

John Singer Sargent born January 12, 1856 – died April 14, 1925, was an American expatriate artist, considered the “leading portrait painter of his generation” for his evocations of Edwardian-era luxury. He created roughly 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolors, as well as countless sketches and charcoal drawings. His oeuvre documents worldwide travel, from Venice to the Tyrol, Corfu, the Middle East, Montana, Maine, and Florida.

He was born in Florence to American parents, and trained in Paris before moving to London, living most of his life in Europe. He enjoyed international acclaim as a portrait painter. An early submission to the Paris Salon in the 1880s, his Portrait of Madame X, was intended to consolidate his position as a society painter in Paris, but instead resulted in scandal. During the next year following the scandal, Sargent departed for England where he continued a successful career as a portrait artist.

From the beginning, Sargent’s work is characterized by remarkable technical facility, particularly in his ability to draw with a brush, which in later years inspired admiration as well as criticism for a supposed superficiality. His commissioned works were consistent with the grand manner of portraiture, while his informal studies and landscape paintings displayed a familiarity with Impressionism. In later life Sargent expressed ambivalence about the restrictions of formal portrait work, and devoted much of his energy to mural painting and working en plein air. Art historians generally ignored “society” artists such as Sargent until the late 20th century.

Sargent’s early enthusiasm was for landscapes, not portraiture, as evidenced by his voluminous sketches full of mountains, seascapes, and buildings. Carolus-Duran’s expertise in portraiture finally influenced Sargent in that direction. Commissions for history paintings were still considered more prestigious, but were much harder to get. Portrait painting, on the other hand, was the best way of promoting an art career, getting exhibited in the Salon, and gaining commissions to earn a livelihood.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:John Singer Sargent, Gondoliers’ Siesta.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:John_Singer_Sargent,_Gondoliers%E2%80%99_Siesta.jpg&oldid=149791025 (accessed May 22, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “John Singer Sargent,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=John_Singer_Sargent&oldid=956888160 (accessed May 22, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Gondola,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gondola&oldid=950230627 (accessed May 22, 2020).

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#FineArtFriday: An Out-of-Doors Study by John Singer Sargent

Artist: John Singer Sargent  (1856–1925)

Title: An Out-of-Doors Study

Description: English: Paul César Helleu Sketching with his wife Alice

Signature bottom right: John S. Sargent

Date: 1889

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 65.9 cm (25.9 ″); Width: 80.7 cm (31.7 ″)

Today’s image, An Out-of-Doors Study, 1889, is by expatriate American artist, John Singer Sargent. It depicts fellow artist and great friend, Paul César Helleu sketching with his wife Alice Guérin.

What I love about this painting:

This painting depicts a day in the life of two great artists. The grass looks very like that which grows beside streams in my part of the world. The colors are that mix of green and brown that long grass has when summer is just beginning. The blue sky is reflected in the water. They had taken advantage of a fine day in late May or June perhaps, fortunate to have an outing before high summer turns the meadow grass crisp and brown.

The quality of light that day was perfect for a picnic beside the water. One can imagine the two artists working on their individual projects and chatting, having a relaxing lunch, and then taking a quiet walk. We can even wonder if, later, they might have taken the canoe out.

This is a pleasant scene, brightening up my dark December day.

About the artist, via Wikipedia:

Sargent’s early enthusiasm was for landscapes, not portraiture, as evidenced by his voluminous sketches full of mountains, seascapes, and buildings. Carolus-Duran’s expertise in portraiture finally influenced Sargent in that direction. Commissions for history paintings were still considered more prestigious, but were much harder to get. Portrait painting, on the other hand, was the best way of promoting an art career, getting exhibited in the Salon, and gaining commissions to earn a livelihood.

In a time when the art world focused, in turn, on ImpressionismFauvism, and Cubism, Sargent practiced his own form of Realism, which made brilliant references to VelázquezVan Dyck, and Gainsborough.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Sargent – Paul Helleu Sketching with his Wife.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Sargent_-_Paul_Helleu_Sketching_with_his_Wife.jpg&oldid=273586527 (accessed December 5, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “John Singer Sargent,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=John_Singer_Sargent&oldid=927728162 (accessed December 5, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: Portrait of Madame X by John Singer Sargent 1884


What I love about this Painting:

I love everything–the moody colors and textures–she needs no necklace, no jewels to prove she is someone unforgettable.

Madame X is mysterious; she is a promise unspoken.

She is dangerous the way uncharted seas are.

Her pose, the elegance of the black dress, the turn of her head—this portrait shouts “Here is a woman to be reckoned with.” Everyone who knew Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau said that in this Portrait of Madame X, American expatriate artist  John Singer Sargent captured something real, something true about the woman, something well beyond the unashamed sexuality of the portrait.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

(John Singer Sargent’s) most controversial work, Portrait of Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) (1884) is now considered one of his best works, and was the artist’s personal favorite; he stated in 1915, “I suppose it is the best thing I have done.” When unveiled in Paris at the 1884 Salon, it aroused such a negative reaction that it likely prompted Sargent’s move to London. Sargent’s self-confidence had led him to attempt a risqué experiment in portraiture—but this time it unexpectedly backfired. The painting was not commissioned by her and he pursued her for the opportunity, quite unlike most of his portrait work where clients sought him out. Sargent wrote to a common acquaintance:

I have a great desire to paint her portrait and have reason to think she would allow it and is waiting for someone to propose this homage to her beauty. …you might tell her that I am a man of prodigious talent.

It took well over a year to complete the painting. The first version of the portrait of Madame Gautreau, with the famously plunging neckline, white-powdered skin, and arrogantly cocked head, featured an intentionally suggestive off-the-shoulder dress strap, on her right side only, which made the overall effect more daring and sensual. Sargent repainted the strap to its expected over-the-shoulder position to try to dampen the furor, but the damage had been done. French commissions dried up and he told his friend Edmund Gosse in 1885 that he contemplated giving up painting for music or business.

Writing of the reaction of visitors, Judith Gautier observed:

“Is it a woman? a chimera, the figure of a unicorn rearing as on a heraldic coat of arms or perhaps the work of some oriental decorative artist to whom the human form is forbidden and who, wishing to be reminded of woman, has drawn the delicious arabesque? No, it is none of these things, but rather the precise image of a modern woman scrupulously drawn by a painter who is a master of his art.”


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “John Singer Sargent,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=John_Singer_Sargent&oldid=904608954 (accessed July 25, 2019).

Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), by John Singer Sargent, 1884 PD|100

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), John Singer Sargent, 1884 (unfree frame crop).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Madame_X_(Madame_Pierre_Gautreau),_John_Singer_Sargent,_1884_(unfree_frame_crop).jpg&oldid=358225955 (accessed July 25, 2019).

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