Portrait of Louis Alexander Fagan
John Singer Sargent -- American painter  
Private collection 
Oil on canvas
77 x 64.2 cm (30.31 x 25.28 in.)
Inscribed: (Across top:) to my friend Fagan John S. Sargent 1893 

 Jpg: Askart.com The Athenaeum

Louis Alexander Fagan (1846-1903) became chief assistant to the department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum under George William Reid and Sir Cidney Colvin respectively. He was hired in June 1869 by Sir Anthony Panizzi, the Chief Librarian of the British Museum Library and during his twenty-five year professional career he wrote numerous artist biographies and art history.

A short list:

“Handbook” a guide to  the department of Prints and Drawings, 1876

“Collectors Marks” (a book for collectors and historians)  1883

“The life of sir Anthony Panizzi”,  1880
“The art of Michel' Angel Buonarroti as illustrated by the by various works in the British Museum” 1883”

“The Reform Club: Its Founders and Architect, 1838-1886”,  1887

“A descriptive catalogue of the engraved works of William Faithorne”,
by Louis Alexander Fagan - 1888

“A catalogue raisonné of the engraved works of William Woollett”,
 By Louis Alexander

“History of engraving in England, illustrated by 100 typical examples reproduced from rare prints in the British museum”, 1893

Louis was born in Naples, February 7, 1845 to George Fagan and Maria (a daughter of Louis Carbone, an officer in the Italian army). Louis’ father was a British attaché to Naples, the then capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In 1851 his father, in his official capacity, was able to help Sir Anthony Panizzi – a contact that was helpful when Panizzi hired Louis some 18 years later.

Louis, would always be just as fluent in Italian as he was in English and because of this, he and Sargent probably had many points of commonality in which a friendship could have formed. Louis was a long and popular member of the Reform Club, and he gave many lantern lectures on the British Museum throughout the country which were popular; and in 1891 published “An Easy Walk Through the British Museum”. He also widely traveled and personally inspected almost every public collection of art throughout Europe, America and Australia.

The year Sargent paints him Louis had either recently published or was working on
“The Art of Michel' Angel Buonarroti as illustrated by various works in the British Museum” 1883; would soon publish “Raffaello Sanzio: his Sonet in the British Museum” 1884; and he had recently translated Marco Minghetti’s “The Masters of Raffaello” in 1882.

Besides being an art historian he was also a capable artist himself and dabbled privately in watercolors and well as engravings and etchings. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1872 a series of etchings depicting scenes and costumes of Naples; in 1878 an etching of G.F. Watts’ portrait of Sir Anthony Panizzi; and in 1881 two subjects of two Italian scenes.  In 1891 he delivered the Lowell lectures at Harvard in Boston.

He would retire in 1894 from ill heath and then spent most of his remaining time in his home in Florence which he and his wife built. He died suddenly on January 5, 1903. His widow presented this portrait by Sargent to the Arts Club, Dover Street, London, in 1911. 
(Dictionary of National Biography)

Waist-length portrait of Louis Alexander Fagan (1846-1903) seated with one arm resting on the back of his chair. He wears a gray suit with vest and tie and he has a moustache.


Formerly in the collection of Fagan, Louis Alexander,
Arts Club, London, England
Sotheby's, London, England Sale (July 20, 1966), lot 14.
Weitzer, Julius,
David David, Inc., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sloan & Roman, 1968.
Hirschl & Adler, New York, New York
International Business Machines, New York, New York
Sotheby's, New York, New York Sale (May 25, 1995), lot 61.

Ormond, Richard and Elaine Kilmurray, "John Singer Sargent: complete paintings; volume 2, Portraits of the 1890s," New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002, no. 291.
McKibbin, David, "Sargent's Boston," Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1956.

Ormond, Richard and Elaine Kilmurray, "John Singer Sargent: complete paintings; volume 2, Portraits of the 1890s," New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002, pg. 71.
SIRIS IAP 81690168


Offered by Sothebys but not sold; 5/25/1995; Lot 61; estimated $70,000-$90,000


Created 2/26/2002