Reading a hard copy of the New York Times over the weekend, my eye was caught by the reproduction of a portrait of Henry James by John Singer Sargent that Leon Edel used for the cover of his multivolume biography of James. The accompanying Times article by Holland Cotter covers the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit of portraits by Sargent, about whom I knew nothing, and includes several more Sargent portraits. Even as reproduced in the newspaper, the portraits struck me as magnificent.
Bruce Cole is our friend and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is now a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Bruce responded to my inquiry about Sargent: “Sargent has been underrated for years. He’s much more than a superficial virtuoso. While breathtaking in technique, he also masterfully plumbs the character of his sitters and scenes. I consider him one of the great painters of the Edwardian age.” Bruce reminded me that he had written a 2012 Wall Street Journal column about one of Sargent’s haunting paintings under the heading “A deadly weapon, a solemn memorial.”
The Met’s notice regarding the exhibit is posted here; the exhibit runs through October 14. I will be looking for an excuse to spend some time in New York City before then in order to take in what looks to be a memorable exhibit.
JOHN adds: Sargent is one of my favorite painters. Hanging around museums in Boston, I saw a lot of his work. We are fortunate to have a couple of his paintings in the Minneapolis Art Institute (the most underrated museum in the country, in my opinion), including “Luxembourg Gardens at Twilight,” which some consider one of his finest works:
Coincidentally, we toured Chatsworth yesterday and came across a very large painting that we thought looked like a Sargent. Sure enough, it was:
It was a painting of somebody’s daughters and therefore reminded me of my very favorite Sargent, “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit,” which is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts:
Boit was a lawyer from Boston who gave up the law and became a painter. Sounds like a good choice!