Eye Candy for Today: Sargent’s “An Artist in His Studio”

An Artist in His Studio, John Singer Sargent
An Artist in His Studio, John Singer Sargent

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Many, if not most paintings are not named by the artist, but by subsequent buyers, sellers or scholars. If Sargent named this one (and I have to think he did), it was with tongue firmly in cheek.

Sargent painted his friend, Italian painter Ambrogio Raffele, on a vacation in the Alps; the “artist’s studio” is clearly a corner of a cramped hotel room, a desk corner and part of the bed serving as his easel.

The bravura brushwork which which Sargent is praised (or damned, if the speaker is a modernist looking down on the “facile” skills of 19th century painters), is clearly in evidence here, though more casually and briefly applied than in his more formal work.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this painting in person, and it’s just a wonder and a treat. The handling of the bedsheets should be in the dictionary as the definition of “painterly”.

This was obviously painted for Sargent’s own pleasure, like an Olympic-level runner going for a morning run just to enjoy a beautiful spring day.

 
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9 Replies to “Eye Candy for Today: Sargent’s “An Artist in His Studio””

  1. Amazing and enchanting how little you have to zoom in to turn a realistic looking work into sloppy finger painting. Amazing too how well you artists know that borderland.

  2. I like your morning run analogy. I’ve twice been in the presence of this painting in Boston. The range of light is masterful. The hand, the bald pate, the sheets. Wonderful painting. I used to try and visit this and Sargent’s A Tent in the Rockies at the Gardner Museum on the same day. Very different paintings but his handling of light glowing through and from cloth was similar.

  3. I try to include dimensions for drawings and prints, but it would be a bit of a chore to include them for all of these posts. I always provide links to sources for the image that include information about the size of the original. On the Google Art Project, click on the “Details” link at left and scroll down.

  4. I was just reading my Sargeant book yesterday, and as indicated in this post, he was not beloved by the traditional painters nor the avant guarde. Hard to believe the vilification he put up with from both ends of the spectrum. I believe no one can touch him. I found the articles written and quoted about his work were masterpieces of jealousy or egotistical diatribes written to impress their peers. His work will always be my ideal pinnacle of successful brushwork, values, color, edges, and every other aspect of art. The fact that he also made a good living doing what he hated (painting for rich boors, and treated like a servant) made him a hero in that he had great control of himself and didn’t slap someone. I’m glad he was able to achieve his goal of pleine air painting in his later years, I can only see his joy at painting a subject that didn’t talk back.

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