National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

An International Artist

Born in Florence, Italy, in 1856 to American parents, John Singer Sargent spent his youth in the cosmopolitan societies of Rome, Vienna, Geneva, London, and Madrid. He received little formal education, but his artistic talent was recognized and encouraged from an early age. When he was eighteen his family moved to Paris so that Sargent could enroll in the studio of the fashionable portrait painter Carolus-Duran. Regarded as a modernist, Carolus-Duran taught his students to paint in a realist mode and to adopt a free, spontaneous style in contrast to the academic approach, which emphasized preliminary drawing. Sargent quickly acquired a remarkable facility with the brush, and had his first success at the Paris Salon of 1879 when his portrait of Carolus-Duran was awarded an honorable mention. Determined to be more than a portrait painter and eager to show his versatility, Sargent also worked on ambitious compositions based on his travels, during which he sought not only subject matter but also different light and atmosphere. A journey to Morocco in 1880 inspired the exotic Fumée d’ambre gris (Ambergris Smoke), a sensitive evocation of Moorish rituals, costume, and architecture. The striking color scheme of white on white gives the painting a mysterious luminosity and links Sargent’s aesthetic sensibility to the fin-de-siècle taste for the rarefied and the enigmatic. (continue)

International Artist | Triumph and Scandal | Impressionism
Portrait Painter | Watercolors | Late Studies | Brochure Images