John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal at the Morgan Library

John Singer Sargent charcoal portrait drawings

John Singer Sargent charcoal portrait drawings

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.

There is a catalogue accompanying the exhibition. For those on a budget, there is an unrelated Dover paperback of Sargent Portrait Drawings.

See also my previous post on John Singer Sargent’s portrait drawings.

2 Replies to “John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal at the Morgan Library”

  1. Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Morgan Library & Museum says: “Despite numerous exhibitions and scholarly publications recognizing the artist’s oil portraits, watercolors, landscapes, figure studies, and mural paintings, Sargent’s charcoal
    portraits have been largely overlooked in the more than . . . ninety years since his death. Yet they are valuable testaments to his skill in sensitively capturing the essence of his subjects.”
    As ever, thank you, Charley!

  2. Masterpieces from an iconic creator. You can actually look at these charcoal portraits, and picture the time and environment in which they were being created. Every little detail has been captured in its true essence. All these portraits tell a story.

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