Saturday, March 19, 2011

Portrait de Mme***

Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend.

--John Singer Sargent

In the summer of 1883, John Singer Sargent painted a portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau, the beautiful Parisian socialite and American expatriate. His studies reveal his penchant for her profile, and depict one strap of her dress loosely off-shoulder. The portrait was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1884, and almost immediately caused an uproar. French society was offended by the painting's overt sexual suggestiveness; the revealing gown, the confident stance, the lazy strap that implied wanton freedom. Sargent defended his artwork, but took his canvas back to his studio and altered the strap. The original version is preserved in a photograph taken at the Paris Salon. Madame X (as she is known), resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Sargent considered the painting to be his finest work.


Kimparklee said...

Following in the portrait tradition of Van Dyke and Velasquez, Sargent knew how to paint rich people and make them look good. Very good. El Jaleo in the Gardner Museum is one of many stupendous paintings by the man.

Susan said...

Portraiture idealizes. No doubt anything or anyone he painted would appear lush and gorgeous.