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Picturing a World

Laundry, again

Can’t resist posting this addendum to my last post!
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Rules are made to break

One of my hobbyhorses is “rules” for writing fiction, e.g., “Never begin a story with a line of dialogue”—say, what?!? In response to a gorgeous James Gurney post on Sargent’s watercolor technique for alligators, a commenter remarks, “I remember when  Read More 
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Elizabeth Butler

An important new show, Artist & Empire: Facing Britain’s Imperial Past, will be opening at the Tate Gallery in London on November 25, 2015. It features this painting by Elizabeth Butler among  Read More 
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Artists' supplies

Website tip: The website of the National Portrait Gallery in London has a useful essay on John Singer Sargent's suppliers of artists' materials>.
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Three figures

Blog tip: I’m exploring a blog new to me, Poul Webb’s Art & Artists. Its posts on individual artists are illustrated by many images. This one comes from a post on early John Singer Sargent and demonstrates Sargent’s ease and his unconventional cropping. Jeanette notices both when she sees his sketch of Mrs. Renick. It also illustrates the awareness of flesh that she must take for granted in her class for the nude despite the way it upsets Effie and disquiets Edward. Read More 
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Romance in the Luxembourg Garden

From the time I started writing, Sargent’s painting of a couple strolling in the Luxembourg Garden was a key image for me. Edward and Jeanette. The fountain. The fashion silhouette of the woman’s dress (no bustle). Touches of red. Light. Read More 

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Carolus-Duran (3)

Sargent’s portrait of his teacher—mon cher maître, as he has written across the top of the canvas—hangs at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Seeing it there and recognizing the name as that of the real Jeanette Smith’s teacher was what set me off investigating the whole topic of American women art students in Paris. As I got into planning the novel, think what a gift it was to learn that this portrait won an Honorable Mention for Sargent at the 1879 Salon, the very year that Carolus-Duran won the top prize for his portrait of Countess V— discussed in the previous post. I knew at once they would both have to go into the novel. Read More 
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Café Cagniard

I broke into a grin at the Boston Public Library when I read in an article that Pére Cagniard’s café at 23, rue Bréa was frequented by Carolus-Duran and his students, including Sargent. This painting from Sargent’s second year of studying with Carolus inspired me to invent a picture of the owner’s daughter to hang on  Read More 
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Carolus-Duran (2)

Although I did not try to dramatize a scene in which either Carolus-Duran or John Singer Sargent played a keyboard instrument, it was tempting, for both were superb musicians. Carolus's organ was notable among the many props and objets d'art in his studio. Sometimes he played it to distract restless children who sat  Read More 
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Sargent's talent

Sargent was eighteen when he made this sketch of the fellow art student with whom he shared a studio, James Carroll Beckwith. It was drawn in 1874, the year Sargent began studying with Carolus-Duran. Seeing it gave me an idea of just how confident and skillful Sargent was when he showed the portfolio that won him admiration from the master and the other students in the atelier.

For a relatively early self-portrait by Sargent, click here. For Beckwith’s 1875 sketch of Sargent, click here.  Read More 
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