Sargent, John Singer

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Sargent, John Singer,

1856–1925, American painter, b. Florence, Italy, of American parents, educated in Italy, France, and Germany. In 1874 he went to Paris, where he studied under Carolus-DuranCarolus-Duran
, 1837–1917, French painter whose original name was Charles Auguste Émile Durand. He was influenced by Courbet and studied in Lille and Paris. In 1861 he won a pension and traveled in Italy and Spain.
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. He remained there for 10 years except for visits to the United States, Spain, and Africa. From his first exhibit in the Salon of 1878 he received early recognition, and by 1884, when he moved to London, he already enjoyed a high reputation as a portrait painter. He spent most of the remainder of his life there, painting the dashing portraits of American and English social celebrities for which he is famous. For a considerable period of time, Sargent was the world's best-known and most highly paid portrait painter. In 1890 he was commissioned by the architect Charles McKimMcKim, Charles Follen,
1847–1909, American architect, b. Chester co., Pa., studied (1867–70) at the École des Beaux-Arts. He was one of the founders of the firm of McKim, Mead, and Bigelow, which in 1879 became McKim, Mead, and White (see William Rutherford
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 to paint a series of murals, The History of Religion, for the Boston Public Library. He completed them in 1916.

An untiring and prolific painter of great facility, Sargent was particularly brilliant in his treatment of textures. In his portraiture he showed great virtuosity in his handling of the brushstrokes, quickly capturing the likeness and vitality of his subject. His portraits nearly always flattered his sitters; he remarked upon this once, saying his was a pimp's profession. During his youth, and again after 1910, he deserted portrait painting long enough to produce a large number of brilliant impressionistic landscapes in watercolor, many of them painted in Venice and the Tyrol. Of these, fine collections are in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Brooklyn Museum. His portraits and figure pieces are housed in many private and public collections in England and the United States. Well-known examples are the portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner and El Jaleo (Gardner Mus., Boston); the portraits of Madame X, the Wyndham sisters, Henry Marquand, and William Merritt Chase (Metropolitan Mus.); The Fountain (Art Inst., Chicago); and Children of E. D. Boit (Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston). During the late 1990s and early 2000s Sargent was subject to wide-ranging critical reappraisal, provoking a renewed appreciation for his work.


See E. Kilmurray and R. Ormond, ed., John Singer Sargent: The Complete Paintings, (3 vol., 1998–2003); biographies by P. Hills (1986), S. Olson (1986), T. J. Fairbrother (1994), and E. Kreiter and M. Zabludoff (2002); studies by T. J. Fairbrother (1986 and 2000), E. Kilmurray, ed. (1998), C. Little and A. Skolnick, ed. (1999), C. Ratcliff (2001), and B. Robertson, ed. (2003).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sargent, John Singer


Born Jan. 12, 1856, in Florence; died Apr. 15, 1925, in London. American painter.

Sargent studied in Paris from 1874 to 1879. Beginning in 1885 he lived in London and periodically visited the United States. He was influenced by G. Courbet and E. Manet. A brilliantly proficient painter, Sargent displayed acute powers of observation and an interest in psychology in several of his works, for example, his portrait of R. L. Stevenson (1884–87, Taft Museum, Cincinnati). He became famous, however, as a painter of masterful society portraits (Madame X, 1884, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), effective genre pictures (Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885–86, Tate Gallery), and wall murals, including those in the Boston Public Library (1894–95).


Ormond, R. John Singer Sargent. New York, 1970.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sargent, John Singer

(1856–1925) painter; born in Florence, Italy. The son of expatriate American parents, he studied in Florence (1871–72) and Paris (1874), visited Boston (1876), traveled, and returned to Paris (1880). He is praised for his portraits, such as The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882). A scandal erupted when he exhibited Madame X (1884), because the subject, Madame Gautreau, used lavender powder and wore a low-cut gown. Paris was offended, Madame Gautreau refused the painting, and Sargent moved to London (1885). He was influenced by Velázquez, impressionism, and Japanese composition, and his work is noted for its originality, insight, and technical polish. An extensive traveler, he was at home in London and Boston. He painted murals for the Boston Public Library (1890–1916), and for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (c. 1918–21). By 1910 he was weary of portrait painting, and he focused on masterful water colors, such as Two Girls Fishing (1925). Both his oils and water colors have ensured his fame.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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