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Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends



Publication Date: 5 February 2015
Price: £40
ISBN: 978 185514 5450
Format: 300 x 245mm
Illustrations: 135 colour
Extent: 256 pages
Binding: Hardback
Category: Art History/Reference
Word Count: Approx 70,000 words

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By Richard Ormond and contributors

John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) was the leading American portrait painter of his generation. This book showcases his portraits of artists, writers, actors and musicians, many of whom he knew well. These pictures were rarely the result of commissions, and Sargent was free to take a more radical approach to depicting the people he liked and admired than was possible in his formal portraiture.


Many of the sitters in this collection were John Singer Sargent’s close friends. They are posed informally, sometimes in the act of painting or singing, and it is evident from the bold way they confront us that they are personalities of a creative stamp. Brilliant as these pictures are as works of art and penetrating studies of character, they are also records of relationships, allegiances, influences and aspirations. This volume, and the exhibition it accompanies, aims to explore these friendships in depth and draw out their significance in the story of Sargent’s life and the development of his art.

The book is structured chronologically, with sections arranged according to the places Sargent worked and formed relationships during his cosmopolitan career: Paris, London, Boston and New York, Italy and the Alps. The cast of characters includes famous names, among them Gabriel Fauré and Auguste Rodin, Robert Louis Stevenson and Henry James. But the authors also make their point with images of Sargent’s friends and associates, such as the artists Jane and Wilfrid de Glehn, who accompanied him on his sketching expeditions to the Continent, and the Italian painter Ambrogio Raffele, a recurrent model in his Alpine studies. In such paintings Sargent explored the making of art (his own included) and the relationship of the artist to the natural world. These are examples of an absorbing range of images and personalities, all distinguished in one way or another for their artistry, and all linked by friendship and a shared aesthetic to the central figure of Sargent himself.


Richard Ormond is Samuel H. Kress Professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. He was formerly Deputy Director of the National Portrait Gallery and Director of the National Maritime Museum. He is the co-author (with Elaine Kilmurray) of a series of books surveying the works of his great-uncle, John Singer Sargent.

Contributors: Trevor Fairbrother, author of John Singer Sargent: The Sensualist (2001); Barbara Dayer Gallati, Curator Emerita, American Art at the Brooklyn Museum; Erica Hirshler, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Elaine Kilmurray, co-author of the John Singer Sargent catalogue raisonné project; Marc Simpson, Williams College, Williamstown; and H. Barbara Weinberg, until recently Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


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