Portrait of Sargent by Boldini
It seems almost unbelievable now, but I once owned a small pencil sketch of actress Ethel Barrymore by this favorite artist. It was signed- "to Ethel, from JS Sargent, 1911”, & it was presented in a small silver art deco frame. It was a gift to me from actress Fay Wray with whom I had an acquaintance in the early 1970s. I eventually gave this piece away to someone that I thought I was in love with. We no longer speak. A lesson learned? No, I continue to give things that I love to people that I love. Do you have your eye on something?
When I lived for a year in Boston (1972-73), I would spend hours wandering the galleries at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, with it's lovely collection of Sargents. I would sit & wonder in awe at his paintings & cruise the arty type guys. John Singer Sargent's work seemed to attract likeminded viewers.
The iconic full-length portrait of New Orleans beauty Virginie Gautreau brought Sargent notoriety. Considered brazen, the portrait of Madame Gautreau in a strapless black gown with a plunging neckline was savaged by the critics as scandalous in 1884. To escape the scandal created by the Portrait of Madame X, in 1886 Sargent moved to London, where his paintings triumphed at the Royal Academy & where he established a brilliant career as a society & celebrity portraitist, doing more than 700 portrait paintings.
Portrait of Nicola d'Inverno
The Husband I & chanced on an exhibit of pencil sketches by Sargent at a small gallery at NYU in the late 1990s. I turned to the Husband (who knows his art history) & asked- “...was Sargent gay? I mean look at the love that went into these male nudes?” I like to think that he was gay. I am going to claim him as one of our own. His work certainly speaks to me.