"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Beatrice Townsend

Miss Beatrice Townsend
This 1882 portrait of Miss Beatrice Townsend by John Singer Sargent hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
Eleanor Beatrice Townsend (1870–1884) was the sixth of seven children born to John Joseph Townsend, a New York attorney and politician, and his wife, Catherine Rebecca Bronson Townsend, a friend of John Singer Sargent’s and the subject of her own portrait by the artist. Portraits of children are among Sargent’s earliest works and remain some of his most captivating paintings. Rather than idealized images of childhood, the artist’s lively likenesses serve as character studies of his young sitters. The presence of a favorite toy or pet, such as the small terrier Beatrice clutches to her side, serves to emphasize the sitter’s individual personality. As one art historian noted, “Sargent’s sensitivity to the complexities, intensities, and uncertainties of adolescence, especially of females, is a marked feature of his portraiture.” Here, Sargent captures the confidence and self-possession of his young subject as she meets the viewer’s gaze head-on. Sadly, only two years after this painting was completed, Beatrice died of peritonitis at age fourteen. -- NGA

To my friend Miss Townsend
John S. Sargent

Here's Neil Funkhouser's photo of her headstone in Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan.

Eleanor Beatrice
1870 - 1884

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