Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Almina Wertheimer's exotic beauty

John Singer Sargent was an American painter, and a leading portrait painter of his era. During his career, he created nearly 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolors, as well as numerous sketches and charcoal drawings. His work documents worldwide travel, from Venice to the Tyrol, Corfu, the Middle East, Montana, Maine, and Florida.

Sargent painted a sequence of three portraits of Robert Louis Stevenson. The second, Portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson and his Wife (1885), was one of his best known.

Asher Wertheimer, a prosperous Jewish art dealer living in London, commissioned from Sargent a series of a dozen portraits of his family, the artist's biggest commission from a single patron. The paintings reveal a pleasant familiarity between the artist and his subjects. In 1888, Sargent released his portrait of Alice Vanderbilt Sheppard, great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

By 1900, Sargent was at the height of his fame. Cartoonist Max Beerbohm completed one of his seventeen caricatures of Sargent, making well-known to the public the artist's paunchy physical type. Though only in his forties, Sargent began to travel more and to devote relatively less time to portrait painting.

His An Interior in Venice (1900), a portrait of four members of the Curtis family in their elegant palatial home, Palazzo Barbara, was a resonant success. But, Whistler did not approve of the looseness of Sergeant’s brushwork, which he summed up as "smudge everywhere."

One of Sergeant’s last major portraits in his bravura style was that of Lord Ribblesdale, in 1902, finely attired in an elegant hunting uniform. Between 1900 and 1907, Sargent continued his high productivity, which integrated, in addition to dozens of oil portraits, hundreds of portrait drawings at about $400 each.

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