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

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Violet Sargent


This 1890 bronze relief of Violet Sargent by Augustus Saint-Gaudens hangs in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.
Violet Sargent came from Europe to New York in the company of her brother, the portraitist John Singer Sargent. At a party given at William Merritt Chase's studio, she met sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who asked to create her portrait. Her brother agreed, promising in return to paint the sculptors son, Homer. 

Saint-Gaudens chose to portray Violet in the act of humming a pitch and tuning her guitar, as though she would shortly sing for her friends. Like an ancient Greek grave marker, this relief captures a fleeting and informal moment in Violet's life. It compresses into one image a love of music, learning and art that characterized the circle of friends and fellow artists around the Sargents. This relief panel is slightly curved, so that it captures the light and the bronze takes on various colors. -- SAAM
Violet Sargent


As the Metropolitan Museum of Art puts it:
Sargent met the great American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Paris in the 1870s. In the 1890s, they both accepted commissions to decorate the new Boston Public Library. During Sargent’s visit to the United States in 1890, Sargent and Saint-Gaudens decided to trade artistic tokens of their friendship. The sculptor created a portrait relief of Sargent’s sister Violet playing the guitar, while Sargent painted this image of the sculptor’s young son Homer (1880–1953) and wife Augusta (1848–1926). (The Met)

The painting “Portrait of a Boy,” 1890 by John Singer Sargent resides in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. 

Portrait of a Boy by John Singer Sargent (CMOA)
Homer Saint-Gaudens and his mother

 The Met goes on to describe the painting.

The costumes and setting are quasihistorical, but the characterization is edgy and modern. Seated casually on the corner of the chair, the young boy gazes straight ahead with an unflinching stare. He appears more interested in us than in the book being read to him by his mother, who was included as an afterthought. 

No comments:

Post a Comment