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Artists John Singer Sargent
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John Singer Sargent

American Painter

Born: January 12, 1856 - Florence, Grand Duchy of Tuscany

Died: April 14, 1925 - London, UK

John Singer Sargent Timeline

Quotes

"Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend."
John Singer Sargent
"You can't do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh."
John Singer Sargent
"A person with normal eyesight would have nothing to know in the way of 'Impressionism' unless he were in a blinding light or in the dusk or dark."
John Singer Sargent
"It is certain that at certain times talent entirely overcomes thought or poetry."
John Singer Sargent
"I hate to paint portraits! I hope never to paint another portrait in my life. Portraiture may be all right for a man in his youth, but after forty I believe that manual dexterity deserts one, and, besides, the color-sense is less acute. Youth can better stand the exactions of a personal kind that are inseparable from portraiture. I have had enough of it."
John Singer Sargent
"As to describing my procedure, I find the greatest difficulty in making it clear to pupils, even with the palette and brushes in hand and with the model before me; to serve it up in the abstract seems to me hopeless."
John Singer Sargent
"I don't dig beneath the surface for things that don't appear before my own eyes."
John Singer Sargent
"Cultivate an ever continuous power of observation. Wherever you are, be always ready to make slight notes of postures, groups and incidents. Store up in the mind... a continuous stream of observations from which to make selections later. Above all things get abroad, see the sunlight and everything that is to be seen."
John Singer Sargent

"I do not judge, I only chronicle."

John Singer Sargent Signature

Synopsis

John Singer Sargent was the premiere portraitist of his generation, well-known for his depictions of high society figures in Paris, London, and New York. He updated a centuries-old tradition by using vibrant Impressionistic brushstrokes and untraditional compositional solutions in order to capture his sitters' character and even reputation. Sargent's pursuits were not limited to portraiture and also included impressionistic landscapes, executed en plein air alongside his friend Claude Monet. He also painted official murals commissioned by governmental officials both in the United States and the United Kingdom as well as a good number of nude sketches probably meant as personal works.

Key Ideas

Sargent's distinct method of making his sitter's shine while also capturing their personalities, aspirations, inclinations, and distinct characteristics differentiated his work in the portraiture genre from others before him. There was many a patron who, upon seeing the final results, complained or outright refused to accept the work. His infamous portrait of Madame X, for example, emphasizing the notorious behavior of the sitter, met with much criticism from both the sitter herself and the great audience at the annual Salon.
Sargent took the very best of formal compositional development, as absorbed through his study of Old Masters including Anthony Van Dyck and Diego Velazquez and updated it with a pseudo-Impressionist style learned from an anti-Academic instructor. The result was a more vibrant type of portraiture albeit elevated by its grounding in the best the tradition had to offer.
His works of sensual male nudes, carefully hidden away by the artist so as not to compromise his successful position as society painter, indicate a depth of investigation previously unknown in Sargent's work. There is great speculation regarding the artist's sexual proclivities to which this oeuvre as well as his relationship to Henry James bear witness.

Biography

John Singer Sargent Photo

Childhood

Sargent's family had strong roots in New England, in fact his father's family were among the earliest colonial settlers in Massachusetts. Leaving behind the family shipping business, Sargent's father Fitzwilliam moved to Philadelphia where he became an eye surgeon. In 1850, he married Mary Newbold Singer, the daughter of a successful Philadelphia merchant. Their first child, a daughter, was born the following year, and died in 1853. Distraught, the couple left the United States for an extended period of time. Largely based in Paris, they traveled throughout Western Europe, including Italy, Germany, and Switzerland.

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John Singer Sargent Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
John Singer Sargent
Interactive chart with John Singer Sargent's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Diego VelazquezDiego Velazquez
Thomas GainsboroughThomas Gainsborough

Personal Contacts

Claude MonetClaude Monet
Auguste RodinAuguste Rodin

Movements

RealismRealism
ImpressionismImpressionism

Influences on Artist
John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent
Years Worked: 1877 - 1925
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Archibald MotleyArchibald Motley
Andy WarholAndy Warhol

Personal Contacts

Henry JamesHenry James
Edith WhartonEdith Wharton

Movements

RealismRealism
ImpressionismImpressionism

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Content compiled and written by Jen Glennon

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Jen Glennon
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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