John Singer Sargent is known for his bravura society portraits in oil, as well as his masterful watercolors. The latter were painted largely for his own pleasure as he traveled. The former, which were his stock in trade, came to weary him late in his career, and at one point he simply stopped doing formal portraits in oil.
He continued creating portraits, however, but in the form of charcoal drawings. These are wonderfully economical, deceptively simple but insightful and evocative of personality. They are also beautiful examples of the power of charcoal and of chiaroscuro.
The Morgan Library and Museum in New York, which has a history of presenting wonderful shows of drawings, has mounted a show of Sargent’s charcoal portraits drawings in cooperation with the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal, will be on display at the Morgan Library until January 12, 2020. The exhibition will then move to the National Portrait Gallery, where it will be on display from February 28 to May 31, 2020.
The Morgan Library has a small set of preview images, which I’ve used for my examples, above, and I’ve linked to another source on Wikimedia Commons, though the quality of the reproductions there varies.
See also my previous post on John Singer Sargent’s portrait drawings.