Master From The Past – John Singer Sargent


Noted to be one of the worlds master portraiture artists, John Singer Sargent brings something so unique to the art world.

Born in Florence, Italy 1856 to American parents, though he spent most of his time in Europe. From an early age Sargent was taught to skip making detailed sketches and move straight to the canvas with a paintbrush. It was from here his style later on was recognised for its immediacy and his bold bravura brush strokes.

Sargent would use a lot of thick paint, pushed around by a large paint brush. “You do not want dabs of color, you want plenty of paint to paint with”.

The width of his brushes varied considerably, with fine points being used for subtle details of faces, in contrast to the sweeping strokes up to an inch in diameter which he used to capture folds of fabric, in the later stages of painting. Unfinished portraits show that initial paint-layers have brushstrokes from quarter-inch and half-inch brushes: the boldest, broadest strokes were used 
for finishing.

You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.

Sargent once said, “Painting is quite hard enough without adding to your difficulties by keeping your tools in bad condition. You want good thick brushes that will hold the paint and that will resist in a sense the stroke on the canvas.” This quote is something I often will borrow and say to art friends. Sargent makes such an excellent point here; painting is already difficult, why make it harder by not having the right tools?


Image courtesy of: www.johnsingersargent.org


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