John Singer Sargent has been my favorite painter since I began, and I am in awe of his talent, drive, and accomplishments. He is truly a painter's painter.
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) was an American who lived most of his life in Europe. He was considered the leading portrait painter of his generation and was famous for his portraits that showed high society men and women surrounded by Edwardian era luxury.
He traveled widely and his work included evocative landscapes and genre paintings from his travels throughout Europe, the Middle East, and parts of the United States. He worked primarily in oil but was also an extremely skilled water colorist.
Why is his work so great? There are so many reasons, but I think the foundation is his extraordinary drawing ability. His work, especially his figures, display a confident draftsmanship that provides the foundation for his carefully constructed paintings.
His paintings are also beautifully composed with a strong light dark pattern that moves the eye around the painting with a judicious use of details to enhance, but not overwhelm, the subject.
John Singer Sargent was a perceptive observer of people. His paintings suggest the character of the subject through posture, subtle hand gestures, and masterful depictions of expressions.
John Singer Sargent was especially known for his luscious bravura brushwork. His loose, painterly strokes look so careless up close but from a distance merge to create a deft portrait of the subject.
For example, the folds and curves of the dresses of his society women are a waterfall of loose colorful brushwork that combines to suggest a rich fabric captured in motion. And the faces are solid and sure, but at the same time soft, depicting small nuances of expression.
I could go on and on about John Singer Sargent's artistry! I return to his work again and again for guidance and inspiration, studying his brushwork and the way he used paint to create the illusion of life and light in two dimensions.
Who are your favorite painters?