“An American, born in Italy, educated in France, who looks like a German, speaks like an Englishman, and paints like a Spaniard.” William Starkweather from The Art of John S. Sargent.
John Singer Sargent was born in Florence to wealthy parents and travelled widely from an early age. His painting was heavily influenced by the Old Masters, particularly Velázquez and Frans Hals. He mingled with many of the Impressionist painters but Singer’s style, containing elements of both Impressionism and Naturalism was viewed with suspicion by many; only Monet saw value in his work and the two became close friends. Singer made his name with his portraits of influential society figures, remarkable for the elegance and luxury he captures with his superb brushwork. In 1907, however, he tired of the portraits profession preferring to concentrate on his landscape watercolours.
In 1890 he began working on a series of oils on canvas for the Public Library and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. These allegorical works were followed by works with
themes drawn from classical mythology. These Symbolist paintings were to be completed just before his death and sadly did little to enhance his reputation. The painting ‘Gassed’ (1918), on the other hand, provoked by the First World War and which he painted as an Official War Artist is extraordinarily powerful and is still highly regarded.