John Singer Sargent RA

We went to an evening viewing of the wonderful exhibition, Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends, organised by Richard Ormond at the National Portrait Gallery to show Sargent’s relative informality and modernity when painting the circle of artists and writers who were his friends in Paris, London and, to a lesser extent, in the United States where he painted murals for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Boston Public Library.   I had never seen the portrait of the children of Édouard Pailleron, so strange, intense and adult, as if drawn from the pages of The Turn of the Screw.   What was his relationship to the Royal Academy ?  He exhibited his portrait of Dr. Pozzi at Home in the Summer Exhibition in 1882, his Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose was bought by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest in 1887, but he only became an ARA in 1894 and a full RA in 1897.   Did they resent his wealth, his success, his American-ness or his support for the New English Art Club ?  He became a dutiful RA, taught Vanessa Bell in the Schools, and was invited to stand as President in 1918.   Following his death, he had a Memorial Exhibition which led to the review by Roger Fry which destroyed his reputation.

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