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Nymphs and Satyr, by William Bouguereau (Detail)
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John Singer
Sargent
American painter, draftsman, sculptor, portraitist, muralist, watercolorist & guitarist
born 1856- died April 29 1925

Born in: Florence (Florentine province, Tuscany, Italy)
Died in: London (Greater London, England)

Nationality:
American

Student of:


Biographical Information

Living in Western Europe for much of his life, John Singer Sargent became one of the world's greatest portraitists and muralists of his time. With his virtuoso handling of paint and ingenious compositions, he brilliantly captured his sitter's character, often focusing on their aristocratic refinement and individual hauteur. As ARC Chairman Fred Ross notes: "The power of his compositions are legendary, and give his work a wall presence that surpasses most other artists from any period. He is perhaps the most sought after American artist of his time and his major works sell for many millions of dollars in the major auction houses of New York."

Sargent was born in Florence, Italy in 1856 to American ex-patriots. It would not be until age 21 that would he visit America for the first time. Well schooled and fluent in several languages, Sargent moved with ease in European aristocracy. When combined with his artistic training by the famous Parisian portraitist Carolus-Duran [1838-1917], Sargent launched a lifelong career of success after success.

But his career was not without scandal.

As early as 1882, Sargent had a great desire to paint the portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau (1859-1915). Madame Gautreau was an American from New Orleans and moved to Paris with her French mother after the death of her father. Not long after, she married the banker Pierre Gautreau and quickly established herself in Parisian society pages. Madame Gautreau did not commission Sargent. Instead, he was able to obtain an introduction and persuade her to let him paint her portrait. The finished product was exhibited in the Salon of 1884 as Portrait de Mme ***, now known as Madame X.

The painting caused a great deal of horror and scandal. The original portrait showed Madame Gautreau with her right shoulder strap erotically slipped over her shoulder. This eroticism, combined with her grave flesh tones, proved too much for conservative critics. Not long after the scandal, Sargent moved to London where he would live for the rest of his life. He kept the Portrait of Madame X, and more than twenty years later, he sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Writing to the museum's director Edward Robinson in 1916, Sargent wrote: "I suppose it is the best thing I have done."

In London, Sargent quickly re-established his career as a portraitist, and through the patronage of several key London elites, he was once again able to secure the trust of his aristocratic sitters. The 1890s and early 1900s saw Sargent's career rise to unprecedented heights through important portrait and mural commissions.

While preparing for a trip to Boston from his London residence, Sargent died quietly in his sleep of a heart attack on April 25, 1925 at the age of sixty-nine.

   Artist Portraits

   Artist Letters

   Books and Related Products About This Artist

In the Luxembourg Gardens

Oil on canvas
65.7 x 92.4 cm
(25.87" x 36.38")
Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States)

Added: 2001-10-15
In the Luxembourg Gardens
El Jaleo

1882
Oil on canvas
239.4 x 348 cm
(94¼" x 137.01")
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, United States)

Added: 2001-10-15
El Jaleo
Mrs Wilton Phips

c1884
Oil on canvas
88.9 x 64.8 cm
(35" x 25.51")
Private collection

Added: 2001-10-15
Mrs Wilton Phips
Dr Pozzi at Home

Oil on canvas
202.9 x 102.2 cm
(79.88" x 40.24")
Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Centre (Los Angeles, California, United States)

Added: 2001-10-15
Dr Pozzi at Home
Lady Agnew

c1892-c1893
Oil on canvas
125.73 x 100.33 cm
(49½" x 39½")
National Gallery of Scotland (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)

Added: 2002-12-09
The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit

1882
Oil on canvas
221.9 x 222.6 cm
(87.36" x 87.64")
Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, United States)

Added: 2001-10-16
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

1885-1886
Oil on canvas
173.99 x 153.67 cm
(68½" x 60½")
Tate Gallery (London, United Kingdom)

Added: 2002-12-09
Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler

1893
Oil on canvas
125.4125 x 102.87 cm
(49.37" x 40½")
National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, District of Columbia, United States)

Added: 2003-01-04
Fumée d'Ambris Gris

1880
Oil on canvas
139.065 x 93.98 cm
(54¾" x 37")
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States)

Added: 2003-01-04
Mrs. Hugh Hammersley

1892-1893
Oil on canvas
205.74 x 114.808 cm
(81" x 45.2")
The Brooklyn Museum (New York, New York, United States)

Added: 2003-01-12