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John Singer Sargent – Virtual Tour

John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent – Virtual Tour

John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925) is considered one of the leading portrait painters and is known for his evocations of his era’s luxury.

He created over 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolors, and many sketches and drawings. He also traveled extensively across Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.

Many of John Singer Sargent portraits, which can be found in museums across the world, depict society’s leading lights and the opulence of their time.

Sargent was born in Florence to American parents and trained in Paris before moving to London, living most of his life in Europe.

His “Portrait of Madame X” created a scandal, which led to Sargent’s departure for England, where he continued a successful career as a portrait artist.

His commissioned works were consistent with portraiture’s grand manner, while his informal studies and landscape paintings displayed a familiarity with Impressionism.

In later life, Sargent expressed ambivalence about formal portrait work restrictions and devoted much of his energy to mural painting and working en Plein air.

Art historians generally ignored “society” artists such as Sargent until the late 20th century.

A Virtual Tour of John Singer Sargent

Highlights of John Singer Sargent Paintings

Mrs. Fiske Warren and Her Daughter Rachel

“Mrs. Fiske Warren (Gretchen Osgood) and Her Daughter Rachel” is an oil on canvas portrait painting completed in 1903 by the American portrait artist John Singer Sargent.

Gretchen Osgood Warren came from a prominent Boston family and was an accomplished poet, actress, and singer. 

She posed with her eldest daughter Rachel at Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Mansion (now the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), where Sargent had set up a temporary studio. Museum: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)

“Portrait of Madame X” by John Singer Sargent shows a socialite named Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, an American expatriate who was married to a French banker.

The portrait shows a woman posing in a black satin dress with jeweled straps—the pale flesh tone of the subject contrast against a dark-colored dress and background.

The model was who became notorious in Parisian high society for her beauty and rumored infidelities. Her beauty made her an object of fascination for artists. Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – M.E.T.

Two Girls with Parasols

“Two Girls with Parasols” by John Singer Sargent depicts the artist’s sister, Violet, in the foreground, and a friend walking in England’s Berkshire countryside.

In the 1880s, Sargent attended the Impressionist exhibitions, and he began to paint outdoors in the Plein-air manner after visiting Claude Monet at his home in the village of Giverny.

This painting is an unfinished canvas, which reflects Claude Monet’s influence. Sargent was inspired by the Impressionist master and purchased four Monet works for his collection. Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – M.E.T. and Met Breuer

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit

“The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” by John Singer Sargent depicts four young girls, the daughters of Edward Darley Boit, in their family’s Paris apartment.

Dressed in white frocks, the most youthful, four-year-old Julia, sits on the floor, eight-year-old Mary Louisa stands at left, and the two oldest, Jane, aged twelve.

Florence, who is fourteen, stands in the background, partially obscured by shadow. Museum: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood

“Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood” by John Singer Sargent shows the famous impressionist master Claude Monet at Giverny, together with Alice Hoschedé, whom Monet had befriended and who was to become his second wife.

Monet is sitting at an easel painting a landscape outdoors, doing what he advocated, painting directly from nature.

In the 1880s, Sargent attended the Impressionist exhibitions, and he began to paint outdoors in the Plein-air manner after visiting Claude Monet at his home in the village of Giverny. This painting reflects Claude Monet’s influence on Sargent, who purchased four Monet works for his collection. Museum: Tate Britain

El Jaleo

“El Jaleo” by John Singer Sargent is a 12 feet (3.7 m) broad canvas depicting a Spanish Gypsy dancer performing to musicians’ accompaniment.

Sargent’s restrained coloring dramatizes the contrast between the dark background and the dancer’s shining white skirt.

The dress is painted to suggest movement, and the lighting creates shadows on the rear wall that capture the dancer’s movement. The title of the painting, El Jaleo, refers to both the meaning of jaleo, a ruckus, and the specific dance known as jaleo de Jerez. Museum: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

John Singer Sargent Paintings at the Brooklyn Museum

   Bedouin Camp

Sargent made extensive tours to the Middle East and North Africa, where he painted many Bedouin scenes. In Bedouin Camp, Sargent used undiluted watercolors straight from the tube.

He also bulked colors with the addition of white zinc paint, as can be seen in the buildup and cracking of paint in the face and turban of the squatting Bedouin at the lower right. Museum: Brooklyn Museum

   Arab Gypsies in a Tent

With his Bedouin series, Sargent used the robed figures’ expressive power animated by sharp piercing light. He used the tents as a background framework to focus on the composition.

This watercolor of “Arab Gypsies in a Tent” features a hooded Gypsy, whose hands are brilliantly portrayed over the round shape of a tray. Museum: Brooklyn Museum


“Goatherds” was completed nearby Mount Tabor and the Plain of Esdraelon and goatherds with their herd.

Sargent visited the region of the Sea of Galilee in Syria, researching for his plan to execute a painting of the Sermon on the Mount for the Boston Public Library mural cycle.

This depiction was rendered in a palette to reflect the bright outside light compared to that of the Bedouin subjects in their tents. Museum: Brooklyn Museum

    The Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs depicts a bridge located in Venice, Italy. The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone, has windows with stone bars, passes over the Rio di Palazzo, and connects the New Prison to the Doge’s Palace’s interrogation rooms.

It was built in 1600 and was named by Lord Byron in the 19th century based on the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their last view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. Museum: Brooklyn Museum

     La Riva

John Singer Sargent created hundreds of Venice watercolors, and they are especially notable when done from the perspective of a gondola as this depiction has been made.

His colors were vivid and conveyed the feeling of a dream. During Sargent’s long career, every destination offered pictorial stimulation and treasure.

Even on his holidays and travels, he painted with feverish intensity, often painting from morning until night. Museum: Brooklyn Museum

John Singer Sargent – Portrait Paintings

    Portrait of Frances Sherborne Ridley Watts

Portrait of Frances Sherborne Ridley Watts depicts one of the artist’s childhood friend, Fanny Watts. The portrait was the first by Sargent to be exhibited at the Paris Salon.

The Salon was the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Between 1748 and 1890, it was the greatest annual art event in the Western world.

The skin tones, subtle lighting, and brushwork demonstrated in this painting made John Singer Sargent one of the most sought-after portraitists of his time.

   Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts

“Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts” by John Singer Sargent depicts a British Victorian era general who became a successful British military commander.

Frederick Sleigh Roberts (1832 – 1914) was born in India and joined the East India Company Army and served as an officer in the Indian Rebellion. He won a Victoria Cross for gallantry.

He was then transferred to the British Army and fought in Abyssinia and in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, in which his exploits earned him widespread fame. Roberts served as the Commander-in-Chief, India, before leading British Forces in the Second Boer War.

Almina Daughter of Asher Wertheimer

“Portrait of Almina Daughter of Asher Wertheimer” by John Singer Sargent was the last in the series of Sargent’s portraits of the Wertheimer family.

The Wertheimer portraits are a series of twelve portrait paintings made by John Singer Sargent and British art dealer Asher Wertheimer (1843-1918) and his family.

The series was Sargent’s largest private commission. Almina was Asher Wertheimer’s fifth daughter. She is shown in an oriental costume of a white Persian dress and a turban entwined with pearls.

The white and green over-jacket was a studio prop, as was the musical instrument. Paintings of European women cast as alluring ‘orientals’ were fashionable at the turn of the twentieth century. Almina (1886-1928) married Antonio Pandelli Fachiri (1886-1928/9) in 1915.


“Gassed” by John Singer Sargent depicts the aftermath of a mustard gas attack during the First World War. The oil painting completed one year after WWI shows a line of wounded soldiers walking towards a dressing station. 

The composition is focused on a central group of eleven soldiers depicted nearly life-size. In three groups of three, the wounded soldiers walk in a line along a duckboard towards a dressing station, suggested by the guy ropes to the right side of the picture.

The gas has temporarily blinded their eyes, so medical orderlies had to assist them. Many dead and wounded soldiers lie around the central group. Another train of injured, with orderlies, advances in the background on the right.

Biplanes dogfight in the evening sky above, as the setting sun creates a yellow haze that burnishes the subjects with a golden light. Museum:    Imperial War Museum

Street in Venice

“Street in Venice” by John Singer Sargent is an oil on wood painting that depicts a young woman walking along the flagstones, kicking her skirt with her feet. She is being observed by two darkly colored men in the shadows to her right.

Her down-turned eyes, her crossed hands, and steady pace as she passes the two men, show the woman’s concern with the male glare as she deliberately avoids their attention. Her shawl and skirt are shown flowing in motion, suggesting that she is moving quickly past them.

Sargent painted this work in a post-impressionist manner. It is set in a backstreet off the Calle Larga dei Proverbi, near the Grand Canal in Venice.

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

“Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” by John Singer Sargent depicts two small children lighting Japanese lanterns with tapers on a twilit summer evening.

The two young girls dressed in white are in a garden dominated by green foliage, full of pink roses, with a selection of yellow carnations and tall white lilies above them.

The viewer’s perspective is set at an adult’s eye level, looking down on the children and the lanterns.

Consulting the Oracle

“Consulting the Oracle” by John William Waterhouse depicts seven young girls, sitting in a semicircle around a lamplit shrine.

They are waiting in anticipation for the priestess to interpret the words of the Teraph. The priestess motions for silence as she bends forward to catch the mysterious utterances.

The Teraph was a human head, cured with spices fixed against the wall, with lamps being lit before it. A teraph was an idol or image reverenced by the ancient Hebrews and kindred peoples, apparently as a household god.

Primitive religious rites were performed in the presence of Teraph. Also, the imagination of diviners was inspired to hear a low voice predicting future events. The painting’s setting is imaginary but has exotic, middle-eastern motifs.

Saint Eulalia

“Saint Eulalia” by John William Waterhouse depicts the aftermath of the death of Eulalia of Mérida. According to her legend, the snow was sent by God as a shroud to cover her nakedness.

The white dove, flying upwards above the heads of the crowd of mourners, is indicative of Eulalia’s soul flying up to Heaven. Her body is at the foot of a cross. The Roman guards restrain all the mourners to the background.

This composition is one of Waterhouse’s most daring artworks. The body is dramatically foreshortened, and the snow contrasts with 12-year’s exposed flesh.

Madame Gautreau Drinking a Toast

“Madame Gautreau Drinking a Toast” by John Singer Sargent was an early oil on panel study by Sargent that eventually resulted in the notorious Madame X painting.

This painting depicts Madame Pierre Gautreau, who was born as Virginie Amélie Avegno in New Orleans but grew up from the age of eight in France, where she became a Parisian socialite known for her beauty.

She occasionally posed as a model for notable artists. She is most widely known as the subject of Sargent’s painting Portrait of Madame X, which created a social scandal when shown at the Paris Salon. Museum:  Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw

Portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw by John Singer Sargent depicts Gertrude Agnew, Sir Andrew Agnew, 9th Baronet’s wife.

Lady Agnew is seated in an 18th-century French chair with a curving back to create a space for a distinctive elegance.

She is shown in a three-quarter length pose, dressed in a white gown with a silk mauve sash around her waist.

The wall behind her is draped with Chinese silk of a blue color. Lady Agnew looks directly at the viewer. Her intimate expression is both challenging and quizzical half-smiling. Museum:    Scottish National Gallery

Theodore Roosevelt

“Theodore Roosevelt” by John Singer Sargent is Roosevelt’s official presidential portrait. Sargent depicts the President’s physical vitality and self-assurance in nuanced blacks, grays, browns, and creams.

Sargent arrived in America in1903 and soon received a letter from Roosevelt inviting him to live in the White House for a month to work on the portrait. 

Sargent and Roosevelt toured the White House together while Sargent explored for appropriate light and pose.

As Roosevelt led the artist up the stairs, the president said: “The trouble with you Sargent is that you don’t know what you want.” Sargent replied, “No, the trouble, Mr. President, is that you don’t know what a pose means.”

Roosevelt grasped the stair post and snapped, “Don’t I!” “Don’t move an inch. You’ve got it now,” responded Sargent. Museum:          White House

An Out-of-Doors Study

“An Out-of-Doors Study” by John Singer Sargent depicts the French artist Paul Helleu, and his young wife, Alice, at Fladbury, in England’s Cotswolds.

During the late 1880s, Sargent was experimenting with portrait compositions whose informality was in sharp contrast to his commissioned studio portraits of elegant society figures.

This composition is constructed around the diagonal of the red canoe and the easel. Sargent captures the pose of the artist’s hand and his concentration as he applies paint to his canvas. His wife, Alice, appears uninterested as she gazes away into the distance.

The Impressionist works of Claude Monet inspired John Singer Sargent to experiment. In this study, he freed himself to create an asymmetric composition, using natural light and his subjects’ casual poses.

Helleu and his wife were among the visitors to Fladbury Rectory in Worcestershire, where Sargent stayed during the summer of 1889. This study of Helleu, an artist working outdoors, is a painting about the act of painting.

John Singer Sargent

  • Name:           John Singer Sargent
  • Born:             1856 – Florence, Grand Duchy of Tuscany
  • Died:             1925 (aged 69) – London, England, U.K.
  • Nationality:   American

A Tour of Artists you should Know

Women in the Arts

John Singer Sargent: A collection of 748 paintings


John Singer Sargent Documentary

How John Singer Sargent painted Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose


“You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.”
– John Singer Sargent


Photo Credit: John Singer Sargent [Public domain]

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