John Singer Sargent, His Portrait

Stanley Olson, Author St. Martin's Press $16.95 (309p) ISBN 978-0-312-44456-3
Like a suave butler polishing the egos of his wealthy patrons and sitters, Sargent turned out 700 portraits varying greatly in quality, notes Olson. Tired of the tedium of portraiture, he longed to do still lifes and outdoor scenes but got sidetracked into painting huge, mediocre murals that mischanneled his talents. This startling, unconventional view of the chronicler of the Edwardian Age emerges from Olson's richly detailed, thoroughly researched biography. The son of a willful, hypochondriac mother and a taciturn, pessimistic father, Sargent became a workaholic, an outsider, a born observer eager for fame but let down by it. Henry James cleared a path for Sargent to settle in London when he tired of Paris, and the painter's friend Monet taught him to work outdoors on a ""floating studio,'' but through it all Sargent remained strangely elusive, a loner, unfulfilled in his role. Olson (Elinor Wylie: A Life Apart follows Sargent on his jaunts to Morocco and Venice and shows how a short burst of communal life in the Cotswolds art colony pushed him closer to arch-heretic Whistler. Photos. (July 2)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1986
Release date: 01/01/1986
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