The Sargent I Knew by Mary Newbold Patterson Hale   
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Abbott Lawrence Lowell (1856-1943) 

Sir Philip Sassoon 

At the Front in France

Two months he was in France, painting at the front for the British Government, and on his return to London finished his picture, Gasses, exhibited at the Royal Academy of 1919, and came to Boston that spring staying until the autumn of 1920. He made numbers of black and white portrait drawings, "mugs," he called them, the only portrait of Lady Cholmondeley, one of Sir Philip Sasoon, and the portrait of Dr. Lawrence Lowell, President of Harvard, are among the latest fortunate exceptions to his rule. 

Several times Sargent went back and forth between London and Boston. Miss Sargent often came with him, and the Spring of 1925 found them in London, preparing to sail together on Saturday, the 18th of April, for Boston. 

The dome was long since finished, and the last decorations for the staircase leading to it were either safely in Boston or on the water. Two portraits, Lady Curzon and Mr. George Macmillan [n/a], had been sent to the Royal Academy, and on Tuesday, the 14th, Sargent made a portrait drawing of Princess Mary.  His work was done. 

The next day his packing was to  begin, a really dreadful undertaking, for he did it himself with thought and  care, doing and undoing, dreading and hating it, and enjoying his victories over the pure cussedness of inanimate objects. He dined with his sisters, who had gathered together some of their intimates for a farewell. He was in high spirits, "genial and wonderful," one of his guest wrote, "never in a better form, and waving  good night to us as he walked away  from Emily's." A shower came on, and  Mr. Nelson-Ward overtook him in a  taxi and made him drive the short distance to Trite Street. "Au revoir in six months," said Sargent at the door.  His servants heard him moving about for a while; after a little the house fell quiet. 

And then the end came, "on a midnight without pain," we may believe. In the morning he was found, sitting up on his pillows, reading lamp still burning, an open volume of Voltaire fallen from his hand. Death had found him -- conscious, active, ready; calmly he answered the  summons and was gone from us for  ever. 

What is John Sargent's greatest legacy to those that come after him? His friends, left poor indeed by his going from the world he so enriched, might say it is the example of what one man may be to another, be he kith or kin, in the sureness of honour, loyalty, and kindliness which John Sargent had in so great a measure that his genius seemed the lesser part of him in comparison. The world inherits his paintings, full of colour and beauty, holding the rapture of sunshine and running water, the wonder and glow of youth, the calm authority and wisdom of riper years. Under this accomplishment lies the foundation of a single-minded devotion to a definite end. Some of us still believe that the function of art is the perpetuation of beauty, and the work that Sargent has left us testifies to that faith. The servant of beauty, from the early days when the colour of porphyry stone enthralled him, John Sargent worked to perpetuate beauty with all the might that was in him to the last day of his life, and bequeaths to the world his formula. 

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




Portrait of Hon. Claire Stuart "Mug" 


By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2002 all rights reserved
Created July 30, 2001
Updated 3/11/2003

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