John Singer Sargent
(1856 - 1925)


Portrait of Peyton J. Van Rensselaer


John Singer Sargent was an American artist, considered to be the "leading portrait painter of his generation" for his subjects in international society during the Gilded Age. During his career, he created roughly 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolors, as well as countless sketches and charcoal drawings. His oeuvre documents worldwide travel, from Venice to the Tyrol, Corfu, the Middle East, Montana, Maine, and Florida.

His parents were American, but he was born in Florence and trained in Paris prior to moving to London. Sargent enjoyed international acclaim as a portrait painter, though not without controversy and some critical reservation; an early submission to the Paris Salon, his "Portrait of Madame X", was intended to consolidate his position as a society painter, but it resulted in scandal instead.

From the beginning his work was characterized by remarkable technical facility, particularly in his ability to draw with a brush, which in later years inspired admiration as well as criticism for a supposed superficiality. His commissioned works were consistent with the Grand manner of portraiture, while his informal studies and landscape paintings displayed a familiarity with Impressionism. In later life Sargent expressed ambivalence about the restrictions of formal portrait work, and devoted much of his energy to mural painting and working en plein air. He lived most of his life in Europe.




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