Skip to content

All about Most Successful Portrait Painter: Sargent, John Singer


John Singer Sargent Painter was the most successful portrait painter of his day and an accomplished landscape painter and watercolorist. Sargent was born to American parents in Florence, Italy.

Sargent studied in Italy and Germany before moving to Paris to study under Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran.

From 1874 until 1878, Sargent studied under Carolus-Duran, whose influence would be crucial. Carolus-workshop Duran was forward-thinking, abandoning the conventional academic methodology of meticulous sketching and underpainting in favor of all prima methods of working directly on the canvas with a loaded brush, which he learned from Diego Velázquez. It was a method that relied on the appropriate positioning of paint tones.


John Singer Sargent- Dame Ethel Smyth


Early Life of Sargent

In 1856, John Singer Sargent, son of an American doctor, was born in Florence. When he was young, Sargent would paint landscapes and made copies of illustrated magazines. Later, he studied painting in the Academy of Florence, Italy  and under Carolus-Duran in Paris, France.

His picture of Madame Gautreau generated a stir at the Paris Salon in 1884. People protested that the artwork, which was shown as Madame X, was provocatively sensual. The incident compelled Sargent to relocate to England, where he quickly established himself as the country's preeminent portrait painter. Portraits of Joseph Chamberlain (1896), Frank Swettenham (1904), and Henry James were among those included (1913). Sargent visited the United States multiple times. He worked on a series of ornamental paintings for public buildings such as the Boston Public Library (1890) and the Museum of Fine Arts (1916).


John Singer Sargent - Portrait


Contribution of Sargent

Sargent routinely showed portraits at the Salon in the early 1880s, most of which were full-length depictions of women: Madame Edouard Pailleron in 1880, Madame Ramón Subercaseaux in 1881, and Lady with the Rose in 1882. He continued to get favorable critical attention.

Sargent's most remarkable portraits convey the sitters' originality and personality; his most ardent fans believe he is only equaled in this by Velázquez, who was a significant influence on Sargent. The Spanish master's power is visible in Sargent's The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, 1882, with a melancholy interior reminiscent of Velázquez's Las Meninas.


Sargent, John Singer - Gassed


Relationships of Sargent

Dennis Miller Bunker, Carroll Beckwith, Edwin Austin Abbey (who also worked on Boston Public Library murals), Francis David Millet, Wilfrid de Glehn, Jane Emmet de Glehn, and Claude Monet were among artists with whom Sargent collaborated. Sargent had a long acquaintance with fellow painter Paul César Helleu, whom he met in Paris in 1878 when Sargent was 22 and Helleu was 18. Sargent painted Helleu and his wife Alice on multiple occasions, most notably in 1889's impressionistic Paul Helleu Sketching with his wife. Henry James, Isabella Stewart Gardner (who commissioned and acquired paintings by Sargent and sought his opinion on additional acquisitions), and Edward VII, whose knighthood nomination artist denied, were among his admirers.


John Singer Sargent - Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose



Assessment of the Famous Painter 

When the art world was obsessed with Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism, Sargent practiced his kind of Realism, which masterfully evoked Velázquez, Van Dyck, and Gainsborough. His seemingly effortless facility for paraphrasing masters in a contemporary manner resulted in a stream of commissioned portraits of remarkable virtuosity (Arsène Vigeant, 1885, Musées de Metz; Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Newton Phelps-Stokes, 1897, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and earned Sargent moniker "the Van Dyck of our times."


John Singer Sargent - Mrs. Fiske Warren (Gretchen Osgood) and Her Daughter Rachel


Sargent's later life

The renowned painter was the co-founder of the Grand Central Art Galleries and the Grand Central School of Art, an art school in New York City established in 1922. It quickly became one of the largest art schools in the city with nearly one thousand students soon after its foundation.

Sargent returned to Chelsea, England where he died of heart disease on April of 1925.


The Sulphur Match - John Singer Sargent


Sargent Drawings

Sargent - Preparatory drawing

John Singer Sargent- Dame Ethel Smyth-1

john singer sargent-pencil drawing miss paget vernon lee

John Singer Sargent - portrait drawings Lady Diana Manners

John Singer Sargent - portrait drawings

Sargent - Portrait Drawing

John Singer Sargent - Sketch Portrait of a young manSargent - Lady drawing portrait

John Singer Sargent - Charlotte Nichols Greene and Her Son Stephen Greene

John Singer Sargent - Daisy Fellowes

John Singer Sargent - Dr. William Sturgin Bigelow

John Singer Sargent - Eugenia Huici Errazuriz

Singer Sargent - Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

Sargent Watercolors

Corfu Lights and Shadows - Sargent

Sargent - Watercolor Gourds

Mountain Fire - Sargent

In a Medici Villa - Sargent

Sargent - Santa Maria Della Salute, Venecia

Sargents Paintings

John Singer Sargent - Mrs. Fiske Warren (Gretchen Osgood) and Her Daughter Rachel

John Singer Sargent - Portrait