Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Art Review - "Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler" by John Singer Sargent - Smithsonian American Art Museum & the Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Today's #MuseumTourTuesday features a portrait by John Singer Sargent at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C.

"Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler" • John Singer Sargent • 1893 • Oil on Canvas • 49 3/8" x 40 1/2"

Looking at the painting from a distance, it appears almost photographic, but Sargent's true genius is in how little he painted in order to achieve this effect.

Elizabeth Chanler was twenty-six years old when the portrait was painted, and according to Sargent had "the face of the Madonna and the eyes of a child." This was a rare compliment from the artist, who often expressed contempt for his sitters.

Elizabeth's mother died when she was young, leaving her to care for seven younger brothers and sisters, and we get the sense that Sargent had great respect for her from the sense of strength imbued in the painting.

Behind her are a painting of a Madonna and Child and a copy of a Frans Hals, one of Sargent's favorite artists.

Moving closer, you can see the almost effortless look to Sargent's brushwork, especially in the hands. The strokes are so quick and decisive, there is a sense of movement that could not be achieved with a more detailed rendering.

"Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler" Detail • John Singer Sargent • 1893 • Oil on Canvas • 49 3/8" x 40 1/2"

The pendant that she wears is simply dots and dabs of paint, fading directly into the dark fabric of her dress. This illusion of detail is what sets a master like Sargent apart from most painters, and gives his work a greater sense of reality.

"Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler" Detail • John Singer Sargent • 1893 • Oil on Canvas • 49 3/8" x 40 1/2"

Painting photos by Saunders Fine Arts.

© Patrick and Kimberly Saunders, Patrick Saunders Fine Arts, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s authors/owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Patrick Saunders for painted works, or to Kimberly Saunders for photographs and/or videos, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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