John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent was born in 1856 and was an American expatriate artist, and widely considered the “leading portrait painter of his generation” for his evocations of Edwardian-era luxury. Sargent created approximately 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolors, as well as countless sketches and charcoal drawings. He also painted one of my all time favourite paintings – ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’. I have already previously attempted a response to this work of Sargent in Painting Thin and Small. Following submission of Assignment three Monotype Portraits my tutor made reference to works of John Singer Sargent so I deiced to take another closer look at his work. For the purpose of this blog post I decided to look at one of Sargent’s paintings which I particularly like ‘The Black Brook’.

The Black Brook c.1908 John Singer Sargent 1856-1925 Purchased 1935

The subject of this work is Sargent’s niece Rose-Marie Ormond who was aged 15 at the time. Rose-Marie Osmond would often accompany Sargent whilst he was travelling and she features in lots of his work. There is an intense darkness to the painting with Rose-Marie seated in the foreground the sun light shines on her, her dress and the surrounding wildflowers. It really is very beautiful and Sargent uses the impressionistic style of capturing this light and movement exceptionally well. I really enjoy the subtlety in the brush marks of this painting.

As advised by my tutor, when using oil paints I was a little heavy handed in previous exercises and responses so I decided to slowly build this piece trying to add in layers and colour over time rather than all at once. Working with oils which have a considerably longer drying time compared to acrylic which I’m used to working with, forced me to slow my entire painting process. Although it has meant I’ve been able to document the stages in the work which is helpful for me to see and reflect upon where to go next with the painting. If I was working in acrylic I probably would have produced this work in one sitting as opposed to the five sittings it took in oils.

Overall I’m very pleased with this painting and feel I have been able to utilise the impressionistic painting style of loose brush marks with an emphasis on depicting light. It is of course no where near as detailed as Sargent’s work but as a quick response I’m happy. The painting is on A4 oil board and so I found it difficult to paint the more delicate details such as the facial features of Rose-Marie. The original painting by Sargent is 552 × 698 mm which is more similar to A1 in size. I may attempt to revisit this painting and recreate the image on A2 watercolour paper using acrylic to experiment with how these factors affect my painting, and perhaps photograph one of my friends in a similar position to work from in order to create a modern representation to Sargent’s work.

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