John Singer Sargent, one of the best portrait painters of the 19th century, eventually tired of his role as a society portrait painter. In his later career he greatly reduced the number of formal portrait commissions he accepted, preferring to travel and pursue his own on location watercolors.
However, he continued portraiture in a different sense, with informal portrait drawings, mostly in charcoal and many of notable figures of the time. Though Sargent drew in charcoal throughout his career, producing numerous life drawings as a student, his attention to this kind of portrait drawing was concentrated in his later years.
These drawings are remarkably fresh, loose and confident while maintaining the underlying precision of Sargent’s superb draftsmanship. The convey a range of personality, emotion and attitude on the part of the subject, and showcase Sargent’s masterful command of the most basic of all drawing media.
Unfortunately, I can’t point you directly to a trove of Sargent’s portraits drawings on the web, so I’ve gathered some scattered resources, including a couple of Google searches.
There is a nice, quite inexpensive booklet from Dover Books titled: Sargent Portrait Drawings: 42 Works by John Singer Sargent.
Sargent Drawings on Inspirational Artworks blog
Google Art Project, and here
Met Museum, and here
Google search for John Singer Sargent drawings
Google search of the John Singer Sargent Virtual Gallery
Sargent Portrait Drawings: 42 Works by John Singer Sargent, Amazon
5 Replies to “John Singer Sargent’s portrait drawings”
yeah I do love his drawings. I wish that there were more images available beyond the dover book . He supposedly did 5-600 of these so there is no shortage….just not many scans ;(
No. it’s disappointing. There are some scattered about in various books on Sargent, but I don’t know of one with a concentration of the portrait drawings. (I only have about 6 books on Sargent, so I certainly haven’t seen them all.)
John Singer Sargent: The Sensualist has a nice selection of his figure drawings, but not portraits. Publishers largely ignore drawings as not popular enough.
The Met also has a nice selection of his drawings from their extensive collection online, though only a few portraits.
One of your best posts ever, Charley! (Okay, I love drawings, and I didn’t know these even existed until now. So yeah, the best ever).
Thanks for this great post, what a feast for the eyes!
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