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John Singer Sargent

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"Self Portrait", oil painting, 1907

John Singer Sargent (January 12, 1856April 14, 1925) was a painter known for his portraits. He is usually thought of as an American artist, although he lived most of his life in Europe. Sargent was born in Florence, Italy to American parents. He studied in Italy and Germany, and then in Paris under Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran.

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John Singer Sargent, Frederick Law Olmsted, oil painting, 1895

His portraits subtly capture the individuality and personality of the sitters; his most ardent admirers think he is matched in this only by Diego Velázquez, who was one of Sargent's great influences. Sargent's Madame X, done in 1884, is now considered one of his best works, and was the artis's personal favourite. However, at the time it was unveiled in Paris at the 1884 Salon, it aroused such a negative reaction that it prompted Sargent to move to London.

Although Sargent lived in the United States for less than one year, some of his best work is in the U.S., including his decorations for the Boston Public Library[1] (http://www.sargentmurals.bpl.org/). He also completed portraits of two U.S. presidents: Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

Sargent is usually not thought of as an impressionist painter, but he sometimes used impressionistic techniques to great effect, and his Claude Monet Painting at the Edge of a Wood is rendered in an impressionist style.

Sargent painted a series of three portraits of Robert Louis Stevenson. The second, Portrait of Robert Lous Stevenson and his Wife[2] (http://www.jssgallery.org/Paintings/Robert_Louis_Stevenson_and_His_Wife.htm) (1885), was one of his best-known.

During the great part of Sargent's career, he churned out roughly 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolours, as well as countless sketches and charcoal drawings. About 1910 Sargent forsook portraits and focused on landscapes in his later years; he also dabbled with sculpting later in life.

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John Singer Sargent, El Jaleo, 1880, oil painting, 240 x 348 cm, Boston, MA: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
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Mr. and Mrs. I.N. Phelps-Stokes, 1897

In a time when the art world was focused on impressionism and emphasizing artistic individuality, Sargent emphasized his own form of Realism and regularly did commissioned portraits of the wealthy, such as the one of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Newton Phelps-Stokes in 1897. Thus, he was dismissed as an anachronism at the time, but appreciation of his art has grown since his death.

John Singer Sargent is interred in Brookwood Cemetery near Woking, Surrey.


Portrait of Robert Lous Stevenson and his Wife sold in 2004 for $8.8 million to Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn to be installed at his newest casino, Wynn Las Vegas.

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