On Tuesday my daughter told me that she had taken her children to a new exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle titled Family Matters. One of the first paintings to catch her attention was an oil painting of three beautiful young ladies called “The Misses Vickers” by John Singer Sargent. It was commissioned in 1884 by their proud father for the 21st birthday of the middle sister Mabel. Sargent was no stranger to painting beautiful women and this painting epitomises his undoubted skill at capturing the human form clothed in fine garments.
I wasted no time in going to pay homage, and spent a good half an hour studying this painting, partly by doing some graphite drawings in my moleskine sketchbook. Sargent has what seems like an effortless ability to apply paint in a natural, fluid way that captures whatever element is in the painting, whether it’s faces of his subjects, a cup in the background, or the props on which the models are sitting. His brush strokes are fresh, spontaneous and economical, the result of many many hours studying in Paris under the tuition of Carolus-Duran 1874-1878.
“Family Matters” runs until September 2nd and is well worth a visit as there is work ranging from the 16th century to just the last few years. It is the last in the Great British Art Debate series put together by Tate Britain, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and museum services in Norfolk and Sheffield.