John Singer Sargent

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John Singer Sargent was a renowned and greatly influential Italian-American painter, who is accredited for providing a historical image and account of the nobles and prestigious individual of the Edwardian period with his remarkably famous paintings of important, wealthy patrons. His most popular and best-known work of art, undoubtedly his magnum opus, was the iconic Madame X, showcased at the prestigious Salon of 1884, a painting that caused quite a raging scandal in the then conservation Parisian society.

John Singer Sargent was born on January 12, 1856, in Florence, Italy, to American parents who had recently migrated from America. His father, Fitzwilliam Sargent, a physician, and his mother, Mary Newbold Singer both had been through a tumultuously scarring life as expatriates, traveling around Europe, and finally settling in Florence. John was an incredibly artistic and creative child, from a very early age he began exhibiting a natural artistic prowess and gifted ability to draw effortlessly. Soon, it became clear to him that art, particularly painting, was his vocation in life and he began to pursue it more seriously, and began to take official classes in the art of painting.

He enrolled in art classes at the Accademia delle Belle Arti, in Florence and he polished his artistic skills to perfection. In 1874, he travelled to Paris, to study in the exuberantly rich, culturally diverse and artistically innovative, creative capital of the world, to perfect his skills and influence his ideas. In Paris, he studied under the extremely beneficial tutelage of renowned teacher, Carolus-Duran, who influenced and encouraged his students to come up with innovative and new ideas and styles, he perfect John in the all methods of bringing the canvas to life with accurate perfection and emotional intensity in each stroke of the paintbrush.

In 1876, John visited the United States for the first time, and this visit exposed him to the thrilling and extremely rewarding experience of travelling. Upon returning to Europe, he began conducting extensive travels that had a profound influence of his artistic styles and creative ideas, for instance, in Spain, he was greatly moved by the works of Diego Velasquez and he copied some of them as well, similarly, the breathtakingly scenic canals had a deep influence on his aesthetic perceptions. Travel scenes and picturesque landmarks have been a major subject of numerous landscapes made by John Singer Sargent.

Upon returning to Paris, Sargent submitted a portrait that he had made of Carolus-Duran, his teacher, to the Salon of 1879, he received an honourable mention for this attempt and it helped him garner some critical attention and acclaim as an artist. From then on, he submitted a great number of paintings to the Salon, and his portraits began garnering incredible fame and attention. However, in 1884, he showcased his most scandalous and much criticized work, Madame X, a portrait of a young lady in an extremely low cut, sleeveless dress that was in an utter and shocking defiance of the then moral codes and conventions of Parisian society. It caused quite a negative stir in the public opinion against Sargent, and disheartened, he moved to England in 1886.

In his early years in England, John was faced with incredible disappointment at his lack of patrons and commissions, however, this changed remarkably when presented one of his widely celebrated and highly acclaimed works, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, at the prestigious London Royal Academy. Soon, the wealthy and prosperous began lining up to commission him for portraits, and Sargent established his firm position as England’s prime portrait artist.

However, in 1907, he grew tired of exclusively being a portrait artist, and began to concentrate his artistic abilities to other projects, such as a set of murals for the Boston Public Library, and later, during the WWI, he was commissioned to produce a scene depicting the commemoration of the war, Sargent produced Gassed, a tragically emotional work that showed soldiers bearing the terrible atrocities accompanied by the war. After leaving the portrait business behind him, Sargent received immense fame for his landscapes, and he established himself among the master water-colourists and impressionistic landscaper artists.

He passed away on April 15, 1925, at the age of sixty-nine.

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