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The Art of John Singer Sargent: Virtuosic Portraits, Seductive Dancers, Luscious Landscapes

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, October 19, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2224
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Materials for this program

  1. Handout

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent 

Justly famous for his opulent portraits of members of Gilded-Age society—particularly women—John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) was prolific, versatile, and sometimes controversial, as seen in his scandalous image of Madame X

In addition to beautifully painted and often revealing likenesses, Sargent excelled at creating watercolor landscapes and architectural drawings, produced during his lifelong travels through England, continental Europe, and beyond. Less well known, but equally impressive, are Sargent’s murals in the Boston Public Library and the devastating canvas Gassed, depicting British soldiers blinded by mustard gas during World War I. 

By all accounts Sargent was a complicated man: painfully shy, but also the life of any party, and fiercely proud of his American citizenship—even though he was born in Italy, lived mainly in Paris and London, and first visited the United States at the age of 21. 

Besides visual art, Sargent was passionate about music, especially opera; he painted many noted musicians and composers and was a superb amateur pianist. He was particularly fascinated by Spain, a country he visited half a dozen times. There he copied Old Master pictures at Madrid’s Prado Museum but was also entranced by the southern region of Andalusia, whose landscapes and people he captured in numerous studies. Sargent’s Andalusian experiences also led him to create extraordinarily authentic and exciting images of flamenco artists, notably his celebrated canvas El Jaleo.

In a lavishly illustrated lecture, art historian Nancy G. Heller discusses Sargent’s colorful life and examines his most important works, including a selection of drawings and paintings to be featured in the National Gallery of Art’s upcoming exhibition Sargent in Spain. She also considers the artist’s place within the broader scope of Western art history and discusses what new scholarship reveals about his life and work.

Heller is a professor emerita at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.

This online program is presented on Zoom.