The Sargent I Knew by Mary Newbold Patterson Hale   
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John D. Rockefeller Sr  
Portrait of Sargent

There are few portraits of John Sargent; he disliked being drawn or painted or modelled. A long serious of photographs begins with a little boy of perhaps seven, and closes a year before his death. St. Gardens made a portrait medallion of him in 1889-90, he painted his own portrait twice -- once for Uffizi and again for the national Academy of Design. The most characteristic likeness is in Herkomer's group of Royal Academicians [1], hanging in the Tate gallery. Mr. Raymond Crosby's delightful portrait drawing is Sargent himself [n/a], his head bent over book, music, or chess board. It shows the profile well remembered by all who played duets with him, and I especially prize it as my first recollection of him is playing duets when I was a very small child. 

In 1916 Sargent came to America after an absence of thirteen years, to install the last portion of his decorations in the Boston Public Library. He was lame, for a big packing case had fallen on him in his studio as he was seeing the decorations off. A small bone in one foot had been broken and he had been in bed for a fortnight, delaying his journey. 

He pitched into his work here at once, despite his temporary ailment, gathering up the threads of old friendships and made new ones, finishing his Library work and accepted a commission to decorate the dome of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, painted two portraits of Mr. Rockefeller and a portrait of President Wilson [n/a]. He traveled to the Canadian Rockies in the summer and Florida in the winter [1917], and Fenway Court, the Fogg Museum, and the Worcester Museum are the richer because of those journeys. "Rockerfellering" at Ormond was mitigated by the sea bathing, for Sargent was a strong swimming and delighted in the exercise. Miami held him because of the beauties of Viscaya. 

"It is very hard to leave this place," he wrote me. "There is so much to paint, not here but at my host's brother's villa. It combines Venice and Frascati and Aranjuez, and all that one is likely never to see again. Hence this linger-longering." 

In the spring of 1917 he returned to England at the worst phase of the submarine attacks. He had planned the changes in the dome of the Boston Art Museum to be finished in London. 

Sargent detested the packing which these moves entailed and was bothered by the disposition of the hoards of possessions of one sort or another, which gathered about him as by atomic attraction. He lived at Copley Plaza Boston, and opposite on the Trinity Place side of the hotel was a large open space where the school of Technology had stood, scattered over with heaps of brick and rubbish of the demolished buildings. This, Sargent was inspired to think, was the best place to deposit packages of old clothes or what not, so he tied up newspaper parcels and placed them amidst the rubbish, one or two at a time, under cover of night, looking out of the tail of his eye the next morning as he passed by to his studio to see if the packages were gone. The first deposit lingered a day or two, and he was beginning to despair, but on the third day it was gone! Thus encouraged he made daily contributions to the comfort of the great unknown and unwashed until all the things he did not want had passed from his possession. 

A Biddable Child | A Musical Genius Spoiled | Painted Diaries | Portrait of Sargent | At the Front in France 


Image of  Herkomer's painting is not available online 
Sir Hubert Von Herkomer  
(1849-1914  British painter) 
"The Council of the Royal Academy"  
Tate Gallery London 
Oil on canvas  
297.2 x 622.3 cm  
Presented by the artist 1909 

Saint-Gaudens's medallion of John Singer Sargent 
6.4 cm (2 1/2 in.) diameter 
Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France 

By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2004 all rights reserved
Created July 30, 2001
Updated 1/8/2004

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