National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

The Leading Portrait Painter of His Generation

Attracting clientele for his portraits in London did not prove easy for Sargent. His style was considered too French, too modern, and his technical dexterity too chic and clever. Only after he made two trips to the United States in 1887 and 1890, and succeeded with several commissions for American patrons, did he become a fashionable and much sought-after portraitist in England. By the mid-1890s he had established a lucrative practice in Boston, New York, and London, receiving up to twenty commissions a year. Sargent’s talent at enlivening the conventions of portraiture can be seen in one of his most brilliant creations, the double portrait of Ena and Betty, Daughters of Asher and Mrs. Wertheimer, of 1901. The silhouettes are deliberately elongated, a theatrical lighting illuminates the faces and arms, and the swift brushstrokes capture the vitality of the women, depicted as if caught in movement. The nervous elegance and exuberance of Sargent’s portraits matched his swashbuckling manner of painting. As described by one of his sitters, Sargent would "slowly and deliberately recede about a dozen steps from the easel and suddenly, the brush lifted ready for action and without ever taking his eyes off me, make a dash for the canvas on which he then recorded his impression, generally accompanying the act by contentedly humming a little tune." (continue)

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