John Singer Sargent -- Letters  (Frontpage)

The account of Beckwith meeting Sargent quoted in THE CENTURY MAGAZIN, June 1896

James Carroll Beckwith

It was on a Tuesday or Friday, the days when Carolus came to criticize our work, in the spring of 1874, at the old studio on the Boulevard du Mont-Parnasse. I had a place near the door, and when I heard a knock I turned to open it. There stood a gray-haired gentleman, accompanied by a tall, rather lank youth, who carried a portfolio under his arm, and I guessed that he must be a coming nouveau. The gentleman addressed me politely in French, and I replied in the same language, but with less fluency, for I had not been long in Paris myself, telling him that the "patron" was in the studio at the moment, and asking him if they would wait. He evidently saw that I was a fellow countryman, for he then spoke in English, and we held a short conversation in subdued tones; for the school etiquette of course forbade talking while the patron was within the walls. At any other time the visitors might have had a more demonstrative reception. Carolus soon finished his criticism, and I presented my compatriots. Sargentís father explained that he had brought his son to the studio that he might become a pupil; the portfolio was laid on the floor, and the drawings were spread out. We all crowded about to look, and Carolus spoke favorably. He told the young artist that he might enter his class, and when he had departed we all crowded about again to look more closely at the drawings. We were astonished at the cleverness shown in the water-color and pencil work, and his début was considered a most promising one. He made rapid progress from the day he entered the school, and gradually rose to perfection in academic study.

(The account quoted in THE CENTURY MAGAZINE. Volume 52, Issue 2 "Sargent and his Painting," by William A. Coffin, June 1896: pp. 163-179)


Carolus-Duran, head of the atelier where Sargent was hoping to study