JOHN SINGER SARGENT by Charles Merrill Mount


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From his heritage to his legacy, this is a touching and perceptive biography of the American painter, by force of circumstances an expatriate, who strove so long to achieve a balance between painting what he saw and felt and satisfying the wants of his sitters. With his forbidding, professional exterior, Sargent remained a man of mystery while he was alive but much of his character is revealed here as that of an inwardly warm and responsive man, ever the Bostonian, yet alert to sincerity whenever he could find it. Born in Florence, Sargent was raised in fashionable Europe, but in a family open to scorn from those who knew his mother's influence as a go-getter whose tastes ran to the dazzling rather than the beautiful. Though Sargent came to realize this, he was never at odds with his family on account of it and ties remained strong through a happy childhood and youth that soon saw him launched into artistic studies at the school of Carolus-Duran in Paris. Paris was his first permanent home and the place which gave him his first recognition. At 23 Sargent was famous. Not altogether smoothly, his paths led upward and outward, to England and America and to such varied acquaintances as Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson, Newport society and the dancer Carmencita on whom he spent a small fortune just to get her to sit still for moments at a time while he painted her portraits. Perhaps at odds with himself, Sargent turned to murals and landscapes in later life. The inner reasons for this and hence for Sargent's inner being seem unanswered. Sargent was a self styled recorder rather than a judge, and being so, aside from his polished technique, the question of his position as an artist still seems vague, despite this fine portrait of him and his his times.

Publisher: W. W. Norton