Natasha Wallace    (Frontpage)  (Personal Page)  (Thumbnail Index)  (What's New)

Interview with Natasha -- FAQ
January 31, 1999

That's a lot of work. What motivated you to do this?
The short answer is because it was just a lot of fun -- still is. When I first started looking for Art on the net, I was having a hard time finding the type of sites I wanted to read and go through. I looked for discussion groups and couldn't find any that i liked -- so I started my own. It just sort of grew over time and I enjoyed doing it.

Why did you pick John Singer Sargent?
It all stemmed from a discussion I had with Philip Resheph. He's the one that turned me on to


Madame X and at the time I didn't know a thing about him. I liked the painting so i put it on my Links page. 

I started getting comments on it. And I don't remember when exactly, but I found out about John's other work of Mrs. Cecil Wade at the Nelson (Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City) -- I might have known about it prior when I scanned the museums website, I don't remember. By this point the painting was really intriguing me. Philip knew a fair amount about it and I was getting e-mails. Here was a painting that supposedly ruined a persons reputation and yet Madame Gautrea didn't destroy it -- that seemed odd to me. I thought for sure that Madame Gautrea and her husband must have secretly loved it. I would have if he had painted me.

So on the 14th of November I made it over to


the Gallery. It was really neat standing there and looking at the painting Mrs. Cecil Wade  -- I must have passed by it a thousand times before (ok I'm exaggerating). But now I knew a little of the history of the man who painted it. 

I went down to the bookstore at the Gallery and flipped though some picture books on Sargent's work. All the stuff I read on the net gave me a good start but it wasn't answering my questions, and I wanted to know more. So the next day I went to the library -- all this took place in one weekend -- and the Liberian had to go into basement -- they didn't even have Charteris' book on the shelves. 

I got really lucky. It turns out that Charteris' book is sort of the definitive biography on Sargent done right after his death. All the other books I've seen since, all source Charteris extensively.


Well, I found the Madame X section from the index and read that part of the book right in the library. As you can tell from the part I quoted, it's pretty compelling stuff -- what a drama. And it was so well written. Ralp Curtis' letter to his parents describing the day of the Salon really captivated me.

I had no intention to get this in depth with it. My first essay was pretty modest. But I was getting really into the book and decided I would do it up right -- it was fun. 

once I had written the essay, I knew the power of it would come in the footnoting. I wanted to really take advantage of the the web. I wanted to fill in some gaps and try to make it seem like a complete story. What the web can do that books can't, and  that is to link things together. 


In one sentence an author might site four different paintings from four different pages in the book -- that is, if they have the pictures of the paintings in the book at all -- and you're flipping back and forth all the time. I just knew that the web could really succeed in this area. 

I have a hard time finding pages like this on the web I want to read. It's like cotton candy -- it sort of dissolves quickly and leaves you sort of 
sitting there not very satisfied -- everything is digested for the 30 second attention span -- but mine is a little longer than 30 seconds -- 

OK maybe 37 seconds. 

Another problem with links are that they fragment you too quickly and your off onto something else and you never finish up with what you started. 


So I wanted to keep it focused if possible and that meant keeping as much of it at my site and on one plate as possible. I didn't know if everyone would have a knowledge of Manet's Olympia and Le D'jeuner sur l'Herbe, and I wanted to take it from the standpoint that no one would have a working knowledge of any sited painting or referenced person and that I needed to explain it.

But I did this for the fact in most cases I didn't know myself and so what your reading is just a recorded log of my own research  -- and I was
the person I wanted this page written for. The branching out to Manet and Olympia was just a logical extension of trying to fill in some gaps.

What's really cool about all this is the help I've gotten from people and I couldn't have done it -- nor would I have done it -- without their 


support, guidance and help.

The biggest one of all is Philip Resheph -- my first Art Tour member and my most active; and I think I've got him all excited about self publishing and he's working on the Giorgio Vasari pages -- a mammoth undertaking and makes my little Sargent thing look like peanuts. And then there's John Malyon who put together Bernard Safran homepage and the  Realist fine art links which has links to virtually all of the paintings of Sargent's on the net -- this was a HUGE help. And then there are the ones that have encouraged me like Marc Robinson, and Brian Cowan and others. God I know I'm going to forget somebody. The neatest part  about this whole thing has been the collaboration  and I've really wanted and tried to give credit at each step along the way.


What's your favorite John Sargent painting?
That's a tough one. Madame X has got to be right up there. I really love Lady Agnew I think she's so beautiful and I love the way she seems to be flirting with John. It's by far my favorite portraiture just as a pure picture. Madame X, of course surpasses it because of the history and the people that were involved. 

But some of my favorites aren't scanned on the net and that has been frustrating. One of my all time favorites is A Boating Party (1889) and the only Jpeg I can find is very very poor but I'll eventually have that up so you can at least get an idea. Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose is really neat and when you know the history and context behind it that makes it even more so -- by the way Lilly lilly Rose was Vernon Lee's favorite painting -- the children are adorable. . .  I've got to get those plates finished.



Daughters of Edward Darley Boit is one of those painting that just loses it in this medium. Jpegs just can't pick up the subtle tonality and deep,  deep shadings and depth of this picture. It's one of those pictures you just know in your heart and mind that the 10% to 20% loss you suffer when looking at it on a page or screen makes all the difference in the world. It's so moody, melancholy and odd, but it's so wonderful because the story behind the children and it's so telling of John I think -- I don't know -- it's just really compelling.

And I liked Paul Helleu Sketching with his Wife because it just so visually appealing, restful and romantic with his wife being right there with him. 

Boy you really have me on that one. I'd have to say the jury is still out on that question.


Do you have plans for the future?
Not really. My big goal is to finish my Madame X page. I have so many things that I'd love to do. One of them is get a list of pics [to become the  Thumbnail Pages] just on Sargent so you can get an idea of the arch of his talent. And I want to footnote more of my other pages. There is about a half dozen Sargent pages I want to do some sort of essay on which are either my favorites or significant and then link all 6 or so of them into a short biography page. I think it would really tie it all together neatly and I think it would really be cool for someone to find and read. 

I'm certainly having a blast putting it together.

Do you know what painting or what artist you might do next?
That's an easy one. I haven't a clue.

Any other questions?

Back to Top
3rd Interview, 9/20/99


By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2002 all rights reserved
Created 1/31/1999
Updated 4/10/2002