Lines and Colors art blog

Sargent and Impressionism

Sargent and Impressionism, John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent was American by birth, but spent most of his career and adult life in England and Europe.

In 1884 he exhibited his painting called Madame X at the Salon in Paris. Though famous now, the painting became the subject of scandal at the time, a kind of attention that Sargent didn’t relish, and the unwanted drama left him exhausted.

Sargent retreated to the English countryside, and for several years painted largely to please himself, rather than his usual concentration on society portraits.

Though Sargent could really be called a “painterly realist”, it was during this period that he painted many of the works that have earned him placement among the painters considered to be “American Impressionists”.

In Sargent’s case the experimentation with the broken color, effects of light and plein air painting of the the French Impressionists came directly from his association and friendship with Claude Monet. Sargent visited Monet several times at Giverny, Monet visited Sargent in England, and the two corresponded. Sargent expressed great admiration for Monet and his work.

The Adelson Galleries in New York, which has mounted several impressive Sargent exhibitions in the past, is presenting a show of Sargent’s work from that period, 1883 to 1889, drawing on works from the gallery’s collection and borrowing major pieces from museums in the U.S. and England.

The press release for the exhibition gives some background.

Though he adopted some of the superficial characteristics of Monet’s approach, Sargent never fully painted in the Impressionist style. His experiments, however, are among some of his most recognizable works, like his painting of artist Paul Helleu Sketching with His Wife (image above, top)

Missing here is his wonderful Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose (a personal favorite of mine), though studies (image above, third down, left) and related works point to its importance in this period of Sargent’s career.

Sargent and Impressionism is on view until December 18, 2010. There is a painting on the gallery’s Current Exhibition page, and a gallery of 31 images, with thumbnails here. (This may change when the exhibition closes.)

There is also a good review of the show from the New York Times, with an accompanying slideshow of images.


4 responses to “Sargent and Impressionism

  1. I am unfamiliar with the scandal surrounding the portrait, but have always thought it to be a prime example of portraiture done right. The pose is everything.

    1. Some background on the Madame X controversy: JSS Gallery and Wikipedia.

  2. Great show, enjoyed seeing it, thanks for this wonderful blog post.

  3. i just saw Sargent’s work today at the Fenimore museum in Cooperstown. they had a few of his Impressionist pieces too!