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“The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” by John Singer Sargent

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, John Singer Sargent, 1882 (unfree frame crop)

“The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” by John Singer Sargent

“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 pinafores, 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, and Florence, fourteen, stand in the background, partially obscured by shadow.

The painting’s composition was unusual at the time for a group portrait, both for the varying degrees of prominence given to the figures and for the square shape of the canvas. A psychologically compelling painting,  it is viewed as reflecting the ambiguities of adolescence. The older the girls are more hidden by the dark interior space than the younger girls. The youngest has her face fully exposed to the light, and the eldest is shown in a dimly lit profile.  The girls appear to be retreating from full view with increasing age.

John Singer Sargent is considered one of the leading portrait painters and is known for his evocations of the luxury of his era. He created over 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolours, as well as multiple sketches and drawings. He also travelled 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.

Exploring John Singer Sargent

Reflections

  • Is this picture both beautiful and psychologically unsettling?
  • Which is your favourite John Singer Sargent portrait?

Two Girls with Parasols

  • Title:                The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit
  • Artist:               John Singer Sargent
  • Year:                1882
  • Medium:          Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:    221.9 × 222.5 cm (87.3 × 87.6 in)
  • Museum:        Museum of Fine Arts Boston

John Singer Sargent

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“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.”
– Benjamin Franklin

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Photo Credit: John Singer Sargent [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons