After being alerted by the blog of artist/illustrator James Gurney (highly recommended) that there was a showing of Sargent’s work here in New York City, I high-tailed it up to Michael Altman Fine Art on E. 70th St. to see the work of the portrait master. The salon-style venue was a perfect setting in which to see the 40 or so pieces culled from many different private collections. Ranging from formal oil portraits to plein air watercolors to charcoal sketches, his skill at a variety of media was very much on display. In “Peter Harrison Asleep”, ca. 1905, a 12″x18″ watercolor, siennas and blues are all that are needed to convey both the weight of the prone individual as well as the fluffiness of the pillow on which rests his head.
And “Femme en Barque (Lady in a Boat, By the River)” , an 1885 oil painting, would be right in tune with some of the Impressionist-style work of the time with its everyday subject matter and loose style brush work.
One of the things I’ve always been amazed at in Sargent’s work is the variety of paint applications he uses to express a given passage. From a thin, translucent glaze of crimson used to describe the back of a chair to the heavy impasto of a bluish white to delineate the fold of a dress, it’s all in service of the whole. And anytime I get the chance to see his work, it never fails to impress. The only drawback is that the works are only on display until December 6th. Hurry!