Double Self-Portrait
John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent

1856 - 1925

John Singer Sargent was an American expatriate artist, considered the "leading portrait painter of his generation" for his evocations of Edwardian-era luxury. 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, Spain, the Middle East, Montana, Maine, and Florida.

Born in Florence to American parents, he was trained in Paris before moving to London, living most of his life in Europe. He enjoyed international acclaim as a portrait painter. An early submission to the Paris Salon in the 1880s, his Portrait of Madame X, was intended to consolidate his position as a society painter in Paris but instead resulted in scandal. During the year following the scandal, Sargent departed for England, where he continued a successful career as a portrait artist.

From the beginning, Sargent's work is 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 its 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. Art historians generally ignored society artists such as Sargent until the late 20th century.

The exhibition in the 1980s of Sargent's previously hidden male nudes served to spark a reevaluation of his life and work, and its psychological complexity. In addition to the beauty, sensation and innovation of his oeuvre, his same-sex interests, unconventional friendships with women and engagement with race, gender nonconformity and emerging globalism are now viewed as socially and aesthetically progressive and radical.

Text courtesy of Wikipedia, 2024

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