Step Closer
Portrait of Miss Eliza Wedgewood 
John Singer Sargent -- American painter 
c. 1905
Watercolor and pencil on board
53.5 x 36cm (21 x 14 in.) 
signed and dedicated for my friend Eliza
jpg: net

Miss Eliza Wedgwood is a member of the famous porcelain manufacturing family, a personal friend of his sister Emily and John and she accompanied them on some of their trips. John paints her a number of times such as Miss Wedgwood & Miss Sargent, Sketching (1908) and Mosquito Nets (1908).

But what I've grown to love so much about John's water colors is the degree in which he can express so much with an economy of strokes making his water colors just amazing.Portrait of Miss Eliza Wedgewood is such a good example of this.

The following is taken from a personal account of Mary Newbold Patterson Hale, a cousin of John's in Boston.

To see one of Sargent's water colours in the making always reminded me of the first chapter of Genesis, when the evening and the morning were the first day, order developed from chaos, and one thing after another was created of its kind. Having chosen his subject and settled  himself with the sunshade, hat and paraphernalia all to his liking, he would  make moan over the difficulty of the subject and say, "I can't do it," or "It's unpaintable," and finally, "Well, let's have a whack at it." 

Perfect absorption would follow, and after what looked like a shorthand formula in pencil was on the block, the most risky and adventurous technique would come into play, great washes of colour would go on the paper with huge brushes or sponges, and muttering of "Demons! Demons!" or "The devils own!" would be heard at intervals.

All the time the picture was growing surely, swiftly; he worked through to the end, only stopping when it was a subject where light and tide changed before he could get it all in, and two "goes" were necessary.

Mary Newbold Patterson Hale, The World Today, November 1927


  •  See the year in review 1905

Eliza Wedgwood (the sitter, gift from the artist)
Elinor Allen (by descent from the above)
Private Collection, England (gift from the above)
By descent in the family (sold: Sotheby's, London, December 3, 1998, lot 49, illustrated in color)
David Findlay Jr. Fine Art, New York
Acquired from the above, 1999 to the  Estate of Elly and Jock Elliot


Sold Sothebys' Session 1, 23 May 07 10:00 AM., New YorkLOT 12, from the the  Estate of Elly and Jock Elliot, Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:   324,000 USD (estimated 300,000—500,000 USD)

Sold at Sothebys; 12/3/1998, lot 49; $176,067 

Alternate image

Created 1998