John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) is widely recognised as the leading figurative painter of his generation.
I have always loved Sargent’s work, as any figurative artist would. Though it wasn’t until this year when I went to the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London that I saw his work in the flesh.
Carolus-Duran Sargent’s Mentor (Fig. 1) was so eerily lifelike, yet once you got within a metre of the painting, you could see how brushy Sargent was, which made it evident how much attention would’ve been paid to his shapes of colour and values, not to mention unbelievable edge work.
The exhibition was about his friends and fellow artists he’d painted, which was nice to see, as he must have painted what he wanted to paint, not just paintings of rich Edwardian patrons for money. As I live in London I walk past his Tite Street studio in Chelsea from time to time (Fig. 2 taken from my phone). I often take a minute to think of all the incredible masterpieces created in that building. I paint a picture in my mind of what this street looked like in 1880, and maybe Sargent walking these streets, going to buy some tobacco, or going for a pint in a local pub with Monet (maybe?).
If you ever get the opportunity to see any of his art in the flesh, it should not be missed.
Images courtesy of: www.npg.org.uk