The grandchildren just headed back to Richmond after spending the weekend here, and I just could not resist posting these as well.
John Singer Sargent (American expatriate artist, 1856-1925) Jacques Barenton
Edward Darley Boit, a wealthy Bostonian, commissioned Sargent to paint a life-sized group portrait of his 4 daughters posed within the foyer of the family’s Parisian apartment. The girls have highly individualized representations, each bestowed her own unique position, though they do not interact. Here Sargent reveals interest in the interplay of light and shadow, of clarity and obscurity. The treatment is uncannily beautiful, though somewhat unsettling: breaking with conventional portraiture, one of the girl’s faces isn’t even visible to the beholder, and the asymmetrical composition, the inclusion of empty space, and the isolation of the figures all add to the sense of quiet unease.
Sargent’s style reflects his artistic training. His instructor Carolus-Duran encouraged students to study the work of 17-century Spanish master Diego Velásquez, and here Sargent produces a modern reimagining of Velásquez’s famed Las Meninas of 1656. Unlike the tightly polished and refined brushwork of contemporaries such as Jean-Léon Gérôme, Sargent preferred a painterly approach more akin to the Spanish Baroque. Sargent carried this brushier style into other works as well, including Impressionistic landscapes and outdoor watercolor experiments.
The two oversize Japanese porcelain vases pictured in the Boit's Paris apartment were also donated by the Boit family to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and are exhibited beside Sargent’s painting. This provides a rare opportunity for the viewer to more fully immerse himself in the scene portrayed, to transcend the boundary between the world captured in the art and the historical foundation on which it was based.
By the way, here is Sargent's portrait of the mother of those little girls in his painting.
More paintings by John Singer Sargent here.