Breakfast in the Loggia, John Singer Sargent
Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project. The original is in the Freer/Sackler Gallery. Though the image linked from the latter page in not high resolution, there is a nicely large image linked from this post on the Smithsonian’s Bento blog (above the image, “6301 x 4512“).
This piece used to hang near the entrance of the Freer/Sackler Gallery in D.C., and I remember being struck by it on entering the gallery for the first time many years ago.
I’m disappointed to say the museum’s website lists is as “Currently not on view” at the moment, as I was hoping to see it when I’m in the city later this month. (Oh well, I’ll just have to satisfy myself with the National Gallery of Art, the American Art Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, etc., etc.)
In what looks like a relatively finished painting from a short distance, Sargent’s casually brilliant (or brilliantly casual) brushwork is evident on closer inspection. The notation of the hands of the woman to our right is a brushy smear, the food is composed of strategically placed smudges of color, and yet all resolves to a clear, naturalistic image.
I particularly marvel at the brusque paint application in the almost pure white sprays of arch-shaped sunlight against the left wall, and the fluid shadows on the back one. The statue behind the women is of Venus, and is a little marvel of sculpturally painted shapes — each brushstroke defining a value plane.
Sargent’s rough brushwork on the vines along the columns defines their shape and texture better than if he had devoted hours to rendering them in detail.
Tell me again why Sargent is “facile” and a “19th century painter” and not considered one of history’s great painters?