On the heels of the wildly successful John Singer Sargent retrospective that was organized by Londons Tate
Gallery and traveled to the National Gallery, Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1999, the Seattle Art Museum will
host its own Sargent exhibition in the West Coasts first major comprehensive exhibition of the artists impressive oeuvre.
John Singer Sargent is curated at SAM by Trevor Fairbrother, Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern Art, and will be on view in
SAM’s Special Exhibition Galleries Dec. 14, 2000—March 18, 2001. Fairbrother is an internationally recognized scholar of Sargents
work. He has produced numerous publications about Sargent and recently lectured in each city that hosted the Tate-organized
exhibition. Fairbrother has written a new book, John Singer Sargent: The Sensualist, published by Seattle Art Museum and the Yale
University Press, to accompany SAMs exhibition.
The exhibition showcases The Wertheimer Portraits of John Singer Sargent, a traveling exhibition organized by the Jewish Museum in
New York City. Included are a dozen grand portraits of the London art dealer Asher Wertheimer and his family, painted between 1898
and 1908. Prior to the current exhibition, the paintings had not been exhibited together since they hung in the Wertheimer familys opulent
residence more than 70 years ago.
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) was born in Florence to American parents and raised throughout Europe. He was the last great
society portraitist—the Van Dyck of his time, as Auguste Rodin was the first to say, according to art critic Robert Hughes (TIME
Magazine, 1999). After mastering the techniques of Velasquez and Goya while an art student in Paris, Sargent created a scandal
when, in 1884, he exhibited a portrait of 23-year-old Virginie Gautreau at the Paris Salon. The portrait, which emphasized the womans
bare shoulders and well-endowed figure, became known as Madame X and today is one of New Yorks Metropolitan Museums most
popular paintings. (Sargent’s later replica of Madame X will be on view in SAM’s exhibition. On loan from the Tate Gallery, London, this
version has never before been exhibited in the U.S.) At the time, however, Sargent was ostracized from Parisian society. He relocated
to London, where he established a successful career as a portraitist.
John Singer Sargent will approach Sargents work from many different directions, allowing visitors to form their own impressions of
the artist. The exhibition will comprise four major components: a dozen works from a traveling exhibition of Sargents portraits of his
London patrons, the Wertheimer family; a wide variety of drawings, including an album of 30 large figure studies; a lively group of
watercolors and oil sketches completed on Sargents vacations to Italy, Spain, British Columbia and Florida; and informal portraits made
throughout his career.
The exhibitions drawing component features the Album of Figure Studies given to Harvards Fogg Museum by Sargents sister. The
sensuousness apparent in Sargents figure studies is strong in these charcoal drawings. The bold emotive figures often recall the drama
of baroque sculpture . The Seattle exhibition will mark the first time that all of the sheets from this rare and important album have been
Also included in the exhibition will be numerous watercolors and oil paintings that illustrate Sargents love of the informal and the sensual.
The subjects include Tuscan gardens with lush foliage, Venetian street and canal scenes, pictures from a camping trip to the Canadian
Rockies in 1916 and witty, brilliantly executed portrait sketches of Sargents friends and associates.
Fairbrothers accompanying book, John Singer Sargent: The Sensualist, will be available in the Museum Stores. It is distributed by the
Yale University Press. A catalog, John Singer Sargent: Portraits of the Wertheimer Family, published by The Jewish Museum and
containing an essay by Fairbrother, will also be available.
John Singer Sargent, American, 1856–1925
Madame Gautreau/Madame X, [unfinished replica],
Oil on canvas
81 1/4 x 42 1/2 in.
The Tate Gallery, London, Presented by Lord Duveen
through the National Art Collections Fund, 1925