John Singer Sargent

Alan Reed's Charcoal Studies after John Singer Sargent
Charcoal Studies after John Singer Sargent

The American artist John Singer Sargent died this day in 1925. As well as being an outstanding artist, he was a gifted musician and fluent in French, Italian and German. I’ve been a great admirer of his work for many years and I often spend time deeply engrossed studying the many fine books written about this accomplished artist. For those wishing to find out more about Mr Sargent then I can recommend the fine volumes of work documenting his work written by Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray. There are three comprehensive volumes on his portraits alone plus several on his figures and landscapes. Check out Amazon for further information.

The image above is a double page taken from my current moleskine sketchbook and  shows charcoal studies I’ve made of two of John Singer Sargent’s charcoal drawings. The original of Viscountess Astor can be seen in the National Portrait Gallery, London and was drawn in 1923. Mrs John Beals Mills was drawn in 1919 and can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. As he grew older, Sargent tired of doing the formal portraits in oils that he was so well known for. At the height of his career he could command around 1000 guineas for a full length portrait which is about £100,000 in today’s money. A portrait in charcoal which he referred to as mugs would normally be drawn in one sitting. These would cost his client about £50 which is around £5000 today.

Sargent would often make his own studies of the great masters as he developed his skills, a practise which I adopted early on in my career. Over 30 years on, I’m still learning as I’m studying the work of outstanding painters. You can see other studies I’ve made of Sargent’s paintings on my website. Sargent died 87 years ago on the 14th April but his influence on art remains undiminished.

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