Paul Delvaux & Madame X both transend time
From: Umberto Vettori
v et email@example.com>
letter has been edited for readability only]
I premise this by
saying that I'm
just an occasional frequenter of figurative arts even if my interest is
rapidly growing. (Just for a question of fairness - I know at least
of you, whereas you nothing about me - I am a 55 years old, chemistry
I wanted to let you know of my impression of your site because I think
it is helps creators understand if the target has been reached,
Briefly, I was
looking at some Paul
Delvaux paintings [Flemish
Surrealist Painter, 1897-1994] when I fell upon a portrait by
a certain John Singer Sargent (I blushed with shame but till that
I did not know of his existence!) and I was immediately captured by the
intensity of the character of the subject, and his vitality.
sensation was enhanced
by the contrast with the fixed expression of the women that dwell in
paintings], their absence of emotion that contrast with their naked
offered bodies creating a sense of displacement of the real subject
its' denial. It is these opposites often found in dreams (why in our
language, and others, the word dream is used in the sense of our hope
beautiful things to happen? It comes probably before Sigmund
With this in mind,
bare alien women with the dressed sensuality of "Madame X" it
evident that the eroticism is subtle, brought on by subduing
elements and thereby creating instability, a sort of oscillation
the different poles of our emotions. Madame X is an example of
subtlety and consequently it tickles our fantasy and eroticism.
If a good
the likeness of its sitter. The optimum catches the character of the
But even in this last case, the portraits often do not contain elements
that open the dimension of time. Indeed they fix the character in a
immutable instant precluding any possibility of development.
But not here with Madame
On the contrary, this painting transcends her time. The enchanted
is waiting for madame to turns her gaze and attention towards us.
choice of showing this young woman in profile is perfect since it
the viewer in the position of voyeur. This intriguing situation, even
owing to the sleeping lover was well depicted in the wonderful poetry "Amorosa
Anticipación" by Jorge Luis Borges. These simple
are by themselves sufficient to make John Sargent not a good, nor an
but an excellent painter.
Sorry for my
wandering; I was talking
about you and how I began to browse the many pages dedicated to
paintings. When I entered Natasha's site I felt like a friend had taken
me by the hand and was leading me all around to see with her the things
that she loved. Because there is no doubt in your love for John's work.
It is so strong and contagious it had an immediate effect on me, and
made me a new admirer.
Thank you once
again from a new member
of the family of Sargent evaluators.
Sorry for the poor
From: Umberto Vettori
ve tt firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thank you very much
for your proof
reading. It does absolute justice of my thoughts and makes it
at the same time. And thank you for considering it worthy to appear on
your forum devoted to Madame X.
I profit by the
occasion of this
reply to add some thoughts for my reasons why I liked your work.
Jump to Accolades
Welcome to the
It's very rewarding
to know that
my unconventional personal approach has been welcomed by you and others.
Though I wasn't
familiar with Borges
before: wow! I just love getting turned on by new
The reference to "the sleeping lover" reminded me of Henri Gervex's
As for your
English, you've done
wonderfully. I hope I've captured your thoughts which only needed minor
note -- In
1884, Ralph Curtis was concerned about JSS moving towards the
Brotherhood which he stated at the end of his letter to his parents.
I thought the abbreviation "wh" might have stood for the PRB painter
William Waterhouse (1849-1917). but in his charming note, Tom set me
From: Tom Barrett
what a delightful
page you have regarding
Madame X, my fave JSS portrait. I would suggest to you though
the "wh." in Curtis'
letter is probably an abbreviation for "which" as you will note
neither the William nor the Waterhouse in J.William Waterhouse's name
Also, I have read
two things that
I didn't see mentioned--1) that Madame Gautreau powdered her skin with
lavender powder, 2) that she rouged her ears. hence the
coloring of the portrait...
don't know if you
speak french, but i do so if you need any translating done, let me
It's always a
pleasure to meet fellow
fans of JSS. Oh and I'm also a big follower of the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood--which I saw was new to you! JSS's painting of Madame
Gautreau would have been right in line with their aims of 1849, based
John Ruskin's treatise--fidelity to nature--even if it happens to
itself with lavender!
Oh thank you, thank
I love getting
letters like yours.
It's such a reward to hear from other people that have enjoyed my
pages as much as I've enjoyed putting them together.
I'm sure I'm
talking out of school
here but I thought that Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was heavy into
and themes where Sargent wanted none of that. Is that an over
You know, I think
you're right. The
letters "wh." much be an abbreviation for the word "which". Gosh I kind
of feel silly, but for the life of me I've never seen that abbreviation
used before. But sure, you must be right, now that I look at it. Of
I knew that "wh." does not appear in any of the names John, William or
Waterhouses but I was thinking, and quite mistakenly I think now, that
"wh." stood for w-water h-house -- not a real abbreviation but some
I think I had heard
or recently read
that Madame Gautreau powdered her skin but I never read that she rouged
You're very kind in
and very generous in your offer of help.
I am most
appreciative and sincerely
Tom wrote back and
said he was probably
mistaken about the ears.
In 1905 JSS
exhibited for the
first time Madame X (1884) publicly since the the 84 Salon. In
same year Madame Gautreau writes Sargent requesting that he show
her portrait in Germany
Q Did Gautreau's
the exhibit or did it come after?
It is very odd that
after 22 years,
Sargent would just start exhibiting what would be, by then, a hugly
curiosity, popular, and controversial painting of Madame X.
through the literature,
I ran across a reference to Madame Gautreau's letter in Charteris'
when Sargent mentions it the following year in a letter to Major
October 3rd, 1906
My dear Roller,
I think I know what
wants to see me about. She wrote me last year of a matter of vital
-- it was that the Kaiser who was such a dear, thought her portrait the
most fascinating woman's likeness that he has ever seen, and that he
me to have an exhibition in Berlin of my things. I wrote that I was
and couldn't manage it. But to tell you the truth, I don't want to do
It is a tremendous trouble for me to induce a lot of unwilling people
lend me their "pautrets" and Berlin does not attract me at all. So if
are taken into Mme. Gautreau's confidence, and I wish you would tear
shirt for it, please discourage her from giving me the K.K. command.
John S. Sargent"
(He did eventually
exhibit in Germany)
So the interesting
question is: did
Gautreau's request release Sargent's self imposed exile from public
of what he himself considered his greatest work; or did he do so on his
own by showing it at the Carfax Gallery, London, for what Ferber and
write (in their book called Masters of Color and Light) as John's
to draw larger audiences to his watercolors?
The question is
in what it might reveal of the person. If he exhibits only after
approval. It shows John's continued respect and sensitivity to Gautreau
feelings after all these years regarding her own portrait, even though
she disavowed it during the traumatic exhibition of 1884 and they
anything but friends.
If however, he
breaks his self imposed
exile, why did he wait until 1905? It was only seven years after the
that Gautreau again was painted, this time by Gustave Courtois,
a very similar pose in profile, with in an even more daring dress and
with the dress strap off her shoulder -- by then times had changed.
he could have shown it sooner; and clearly there would have been huge
to have done so.
It would seem to me
letter preceded Sargent's exhibition. You can read within Sargent's
to Major Roller, a continued bitterness regarding Guatreau and her
and his rejection at the salon. Though he does eventually exhibit in
But in answering
this question, it
would seem to hindge on how and when the Kaiser had requested her
and I'm not sure we could ever find that out. Or if we had Guatreau's
to Sargent, but I don't know if it was saved.
portrait of Mme Gautreau
by Antonio de la Gandara
From: Patrick Van
pv nd email@example.com
Did you know that Antonio
de la Gandara (Paris, 1861-1917) painted a remarkable (according to
Mme Gautreau's family) portrait of Mme Gautreau? The information was
by the Frick Collections in New York.
Would you be able
to tell me if Sargent
and Gandara knew each other?
Thank you very much
Patrick Van de Velde
From: Patrick Van
Thank you - a lot -
for this prompt
and interesting reply. And for adding my question to your Forum.
The only picture I
have if I recall
well (it is in a file in Brussels and I am in Thailand) is a rather
photocopy. But as soon as I can, I'll try to scan it for you.
attach the text
of an article by W.B. Denmore on Gandara. Denmore mentions the
of Mme Gautreau by the French artist. (Please note that I
a typed version of this text and that I have not seen the original. The
date of publication is my own guess. During spring 1898 Gandara was in
the USA. I found no evidence of any other visit to America). According
information, the portrait
(2.16 m x 1.16 m - ?) won the Gold Medal at Munich's exhibition in
Painted some time between 1896 and 1898 (?) it was also exposed in
Boston, and Vienna. .
Collections have a 200-page
unpublished manuscript by Mettha Westfeldt Eshleman entitled "Madame
née Virginie Avegno". The text is in English and talks about
and Gandara. Mrs. Eshleman is the grand-daughter or grand-niece of Mme
Gautreau (again, most of my documents are in Brussels and I can only
upon my memory).
I hope the above is
Patrick Van de
Van de Velde
pva nd firstname.lastname@example.org
I may have found
evidence that Gandara
and Sargent knew each other. The following text was published in 1902
the title "Current Art : The Salons of 1902" in the "Magazine of Art -
May 1902 (? - handwriting unclear on the photocopy I have)" :
painting is, as
usual, strongly represented by numerous canvases, of which only a few
really interesting. The chief attractions of the Salon in this class of
work are Mr. Sargent's portraits of "The Misses Wertheimer", and of
Baten Singing" to which the artist has added a delightful picture of
the pianist. M. Blanche is well represented by his portraits of
of "Paul Adam", and of "The Younger Barres", studies of solid
and a sound scheme of colour. M. de la Gandara exhibits a fascinating
of "Madame S." remarkably free and graceful."
Hope you are well.
(source: The New
York Public Library'sArtists
From: Patrick Van
pv an email@example.com
Good news !
informs me that the
following URL provides information on a book by Patrick Chaleyssin -- "La
Peinture Mondaine de 1870 à 1960" -- that includes pictures
of both portraits we were talking about (Madame Gautreau by Sargent and
I've heard of
Gustave Courtois' portrait
of her but not Gandara's.
The short answer is
I don't know
if he knew him, I'll keep my eyes out for the name.
He would be five
years junior to
Sargent. The Madam X scandal was when Sargent was 28, he left Paris
shortly after. Antonio would have been about 23. Once Sargent left
I don't think he cultivated a lot of new friends from Paris (he kept
old ones but he distanced himself form many new contacts). It's
that they knew each other, but probably not very well if at all -- if I
were to guess -- given their age difference and the level of
ability at the time Sargent left Paris.
I'd love to run
down the image of
Oh that would be so
the image you have – just so we have an idea of what the painting looks
like. I am posting the copy of the Magazine article you sent as well, I
DID find it
interesting and if
Antonio de la
Gandara was in Paris at the age of 14 studying painting than he MIGHT
known Sargent, or a better chance of knowing him I would think.
That is a great
find. It certainly
gives a lot of weight to the theory of the two of them knowing OF
each other, but the Salon was a big place (as you know) with a lot of
and a lot of painters and I'm not sure Sargent was at each opening of
show. I know from other books that for his American shows he often sent
his paintings on without him. But it would seem now more possible if
more probable that they knew each other.
Are you back in
Brussels now? Any
chance of getting the black and white image of Gautreau?
I looked into The
for Mettha Westfeldt Eshleman unpublished manuscript. I know they
have it because they're using a Sargent painting on their web-page
but I couldn't find it in their online search catalogue. I suppose you
have to go their in person to see it.
Sounds good, I'll look
for it. --
on wood board
From: Faun Boyer
B ob-Fa firstname.lastname@example.org
In l992 at the
Vieques Inn, Vieques
Island, P.R., I saw the most beautiful painting (huge, wall size,
on wood I believe) of Madame X (they said). It is of the likeness
of Madame Pierre Gautreau and style. I''ve not seen any
of this in books about Sargent or Websites. She is seated on a
couch with legs extended on length of couch and has on a white flowing
gown and white slippers. There is a small side table next to the
couch with a black figural statue on it. There's a bouquet of
roses on the floor.
I know nothing
about paintings but
was fascinated with that painting and looked in books from the library
on Sargent but have never seen this particular painting mentioned. Also
her face is painted in profile like the other Madame Pierre Gautreau
The young couple that ran the hotel said they were from N.J. ( I
and were art dealers there and gave it up live on Vieques Island, P.R.
Have always been curious about that painting. I did take a
haven't heard of it.
Will post the note.
From: Deborah Davis
d dav email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 31 Jan
Your website is
a real labor of love that is very impressive. . . .I am
a book about her and I would welcome any help from your many Madame X
. . . .
Thu, 24 Apr
My book on Madame X,
will be coming out in July. I would love to send you a copy when
the hardcovers are ready. . . . Thank you Natasha, for your
wonderful work on Sargent's behalf.
email: dd avi
Date: 29 April 2003
How many pages did
it end up being
and were the Gautreau family of any help? It was my impression they
too excited about everyones take on their infamous relative -- oh well,
right? It was one of those stories that was just begging for a book for
some time. I have to admit that I myself, many moons ago thought of
it on myself but decided that the time and expense (travel etc) would
it out of my reach -- and then I had never done anything like that so I
never perused it and did what I've done instead.
I look forward to
reading it -- very
eager too in fact and hope I can be of help in getting the word out --
keep me informed.
|From: Bob Diven
b o b @ bobdiven. com
Date: Tue, 24 May 2005
As a fellow lover of Sargent, I thought you of all people should know
about a show I've created. "John Singer Sargent: Painting Madame
X" recently debuted at the Black Box Theater in my home city of Las
Cruces, New Mexico. It's a one-man show that I wrote and for
which I've recreated Sargent's sketches of Virginie Gautreau, as well
as the Salon version of his Portrait of Madame X. I was directed
by Tony-Award winning playwright Mark Medoff (Children of a Lesser
God). It's a 40-minute piece and features a bit of Sargent-esque
piano noodling, banjo strumming and singing, as well as drawing as
Sargent works on a cartoon for one of his mural projects. I set
the show in his London studio on the evening in January, 1916, when he
makes the decision to sell Madame X to the Met. He has received
word of Gautreau's death, and finds himself compelled to overcome his
usual reserve and tell the story of her painting and their relationship.
I discovered your website about the mid-point in my research, and found
it very helpful for tracking down those extra details I needed to
better portray the man.
I've been a professional painter and performer for 25 years, and felt
that I could bring a reality to the depiction of the man and artist
that Sargent was. Right now I'm developing a tour of the show,
starting in my region, but expanding across the country. If you'd
like more information, I'm happy to supply it. Also, if you or
your readers are interested, I would appreciate any assistance in
finding appropriate venues to perform in. I've designed the show
to be portable and technically simple, as my vision was to bring it to
art museum auditoriums.
I'm attaching a photo of me as Sargent, standing before my recreation
of Madame X. You might appreciate the reference to Sargent's
studio portrait from after the Salon. I'll also attempt to attach
one of the reviews of the show.
All the best.
P.O. Box 2781
Las Cruces, NM 88004-2781
Bob Diven as Sargent in
"John Singer Sargent: Painting Madame X"
Yes let me
know how it goes Bob and . . . .
Break a paintbrush!!!!