Throughout his career, the celebrated American painter John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) created exceptional portraits of artists, writers, actors, dancers, and musicians, many of whom were his close friends. As a group, these portraits—many of which were not commissioned—are often highly charged, intimate, witty, idiosyncratic, and more experimental than his formal portraiture. Brilliant works of art and penetrating character studies, they are also records of relationships, influences, aspirations, and allegiances.
Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends (June 30–October 4, 2015) brings together about ninety of the artist’s paintings and drawings of members of his impressive artistic circle. The individuals seen through Sargent’s eyes represent a range of leading figures in the creative arts of the time such as artists Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin, writers Robert Louis Stevenson and Henry James, and the actor Ellen Terry, among others. The exhibition features some of Sargent’s most celebrated full-length portraits (Dr. Pozzi at Home, Hammer Museum), his dazzling subject paintings created in the Italian countryside (Group with Parasols, The Middleton Family Collection), and brilliant watercolors (In the Generalife, The Metropolitan Museum of Art) alongside lesser-known portrait sketches of his intimate friends (Vernon Lee, 1881, Tate). The exhibition explores the friendships between Sargent and his artistic sitters, as well as the significance of these relationships to his life and art.
The exhibition is made possible by The Marguerite and Frank A. Cosgrove Jr. Fund and is organized by the National Portrait Gallery, London in collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accompanied by a catalogue and an Audio Guide