John Singer Sargent
was an American
painter by birth-right. He loved his country yet he spent most of his
in Europe. He was the most celebrated portraitist of his time but
left it at the very height of his fame to devote full time to landscape
painting, water colors and public art.
He was born in
Florence, to American
parents and traveled extensively throughout Europe. His parents
settled back in America, not stepping foot in the States himself until
right before his 21st birthday to retain his citizenship.
He was schooled as
a French artist,
heavily influenced by the Impressionist movement, the Spanish Master
the Dutch Master Frans Hals, and his teacher Carolus-Duran . He was the
darling of Paris until the scandal of his Madame X painting at
Discouraged at the
considered leaving art at the age of 28, he left Paris and settled (if
that word could ever be used for him) in England where he reached the
of his fame. To be painted by Sargent was to be painted by the best.
would be his home,
he never stopped traveling and he never stopped painting. To describe
is to say that he painted. It was his life and yet he had
a deep appreciation for music and all art forms and went out of his way
to promote other artists -- for this selflessness he was greatly loved.
an intense hard worker, he was the last great generalist. It is hard to
put a label on him for he could master so many different painting
He was an Impressionist, a Classical Portraitist, a Landscape Artist, a
Water Colorist, a Muralist of public art, and even started sculpting at
the last of his life. He was all of these things and yet he was none of
them in total.
He once said that
the knowledge of
a technique for an artist, such as Impressionism, "does not make a man
an Artist any more than the knowledge of perspective does -- it is
a refining of one's means towards representing things and one step
away from the hieroglyph".
He is often passed
by, not studied,
or dismissed because he was never a radical artist or trend-setter. He
always worked within the wide, rich textured pallet of known and
styles. Yet his brilliance was in fusing these elements together and
this he has never fully gotten credit.
His output was
dawn til dusk in some cases -- even on vacations, and sometimes seven
a week. Between 1877 (when his work really started taking off) and
he did over 900 oils and more than 2,000 watercolors along with
charcoal sketch-portraits and endless pencil drawings.
He painted two
United States presidents,
the aristocracy of Europe, the new and emerging tycoons and barons of
-- Rockefeller, Sears, Vanderbilt; and he painted gypsies, tramps, and
street children with the same gusto and passion. He hiked through the
Mountains with a canvas tent under pouring rain to paint the beauty of
waterfalls, and painted near the front lines during World War I to
the horrors of war. He painted the back alleys of Venice, sleeping
fishing boats and the dusty side streets of Spain. He painted opulent
and vacant Moorish Ruins. He painted the artists of his time --
poets, dancers, musicians, and writers -- Robert Louis Stevenson,
and Henry James. He painted the great generals of the Great War, and
Bedouin nomads in their camps. He painted grand allegorical
and his friends as they slept.
painted . . .
Where others kept
Singer Sargent painted his, and his life can easily be chronicled by
records in color and canvas. He loved people, yet was intensely
And he loved his family deeply and devotedly, though he never had a
himself (was childless and never married). He was simply, a great man
a great Artist.
explore Sargent more
in depth, you can take one of two paths:
Paintings is a quick look at some Sargent's major pieces which
to essays explaining why.
Thumbnails is the main body of the gallery. It starts the year he
born and runs until his death. It concisely outlines his life story and
shows the paintings he did each year.