Saturday, January 12, 2013
John Singer Sargent was born on January 12, 1856, in Florence, Italy, where his parents lived as peripatetic American expatriates. He had formal art training there and in Paris, then traveled to Spain, Holland and Venice to study the Old Masters. By the 1880s his talents as a portrait artist increasingly defined his reputation as an aesthetic realist. His best-known portrait, Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau, pictured), recalls key facets of works by Velázquez, Titian and Manet. But it caused a scandal at the 1884 Paris Salon for violating conventions of pose, modeling and treatment of space. He moved to London for the rest of his life, where he painted the English aristocracy, businessmen, artists and performers of the luxe Edwardian era. Sargent has been praised, with some irony, as "the unrivaled recorder of male power and female beauty in a day that, like ours, paid excessive court to both."