john singer sargent: paintings, drawings and watercoloursby richard ormond

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  • John Singer Sargent: Paintings, Drawings and Watercolours by Richard OrmondReview by: JAMES LAVERJournal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 119, No. 5174 (JANUARY 1971), p. 122Published by: Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and CommerceStable URL: .Accessed: 25/06/2014 07:19

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    The plates are excellent, 'made from the best available originals and all in black and white, not in spite but because of the fact that Titian was the greatest "colorist" who ever lived'.

    T. S. R. BOASE

    John Singer Sargent: Paintings, Drawings and Watercolours By Richard Ormond London , Phaidon , 1970. 6 net At his death in 1925 John Singer Sargent wa at the height of his reputation. A whole collection of his portraits had been accepted by the National Gallery and at the sale of his water- colours even minor works fetched what at the time seemed prodigious prices. And then, as always happens, came the trough, the gap in appreciation', and Sargent's reputation suffered a decline from which it has not yet entirely recovered.

    When his work was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1882 it raised a storm of con- troversy: an Impressionist wolf among so many mild academic sheep. Even his technique at that time seemed startlingly modern, as indeed it was. That part of Impressionism which was not diverted into a preoccupation with effects of light and atmosphere, that part of Impression- ism, that is, which appeared superficially to be following closely in the footsteps of Manet, was systematized, transformed into a mere matter of technique by painters like Carolus-Duran. Into the studio of that artist came Sargent at the age of nineteen, fresh from Florence, where he had been born and where he had passed his boy- hood. He rapidly absorbed all his master had to teach him and departed for Madrid, to soak him- self in Velasquez. Returning thence, he estab- lished himself, early in the '80s, in a studio in Paris and his triumphal career began. Trans- ferring himself to London (after the uproar caused by his uncompromising portrait of Madame Gautreau ), he became an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1894 and a full Academi- cian three years later. He turned aside for a moment to paint the charming Carnation , Lily, Lily y Rose and to decorate the Boston Library; but his main work was always his portraits, and of these he poured out a succession of pictures of men, women and children, each more able than the last.

    The power of his bravura brushwork was un- questionable, but his literalness, his penetrating eye, his refusal to make any comment made some of his critics uneasy. It is said that a doctor was able to diagnose heart disease in one of his sitters, merely by looking at the portrait. The modern painter cares nothing for this kind of approach. He feels that a painter like Sargent has nothing to teach him. Yet historians of the future will certainly have to go back to him if they are to understand the epoch in which he lived and flourished. And his 'off duty' work -

    the watercolours of his beloved Venice, for example - have continuing charm and value.

    It was high time for a re-appraisal. Mr. Richard Ormond, who is on the staff of the National Portrait Gallery, who organized the Sargent exhibition in Birmingham in 1964 and who is himself a great-nephew of the painter, has set himself to the task with enthusiasm and extreme competence. His definitive text is un- likely to be superseded. There are nearly twenty plates in colour and 134 in monochrome. Even at 6 the purchaser of a copy of this work is getting excellent value for money.

    JAMES laver

    French Prints of the 20TH Century By Roger Passeron ( translated by Robert Allen) London , Pall Mall Press , 1970. 130s net The author is an industrial administrator well known for his life-long interest in prints. He has made a collection that ranges over six centuries to the present day. He has also organized and catalogued important exhibitions of prints by Daumier and Segonzac.

    Those familiar with contemporary painting need not be told that the 'French' of the title is not strictly national: it embraces other artists who have worked in France or have been adopted by the school of Paris'. Similarly, 'Twentieth Century' is a loose rather than a strict chronological grouping. The author quotes the Chief Curator of the Print Room in the French National Library as saying, 'the twentieth century began in 1890 as far as engraving was concerned'. He continues: 'Therefore if we want to follow the complex development of the various movements it com- prises, we must find out what influences the generation of the 1890s was exposed to. It has even been said that twentieth-century engraving began as early as 1864, the year Edouard Manet did his lithograph The Races. Although the author of this book does not want to go back quite so far, he has started with an engraving of 1896 because it foreshadows the freedom of handling that characterizes those of the present day. For the same reason it is followed by others, all done between 1894 and 1899, by such important artists as Gauguin, Signac, Munch, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard and Vuillard. If these men are the fathers of twentieth-century engraving, the works they produced must per- force be given a place in our century because many artists who followed in their footsteps viewed them as their masters and found in- spiration in their example; whereas some artists who were born in the nineteenth century and died in the twentieth have their rightful place devoted to nineteenth-century engraving. On the other hand, many painter-engravers who have come to the fore since 1950 are not included


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    Article Contentsp. 122

    Issue Table of ContentsJournal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 119, No. 5174 (JANUARY 1971), pp. 67-126NOTICES OF THE SOCIETY [pp. 67-71]CUTHBERT BRODRICK: AN INTERPRETATION OF A VICTORIAN ARCHITECT [pp. 72-88]FIRE PROTECTION IN INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS [pp. 89-103]HIGH CEREAL YIELDS [pp. 104-114]GENERAL NOTES [pp. 115-119]OBITUARY [pp. 119-119]NOTES ON BOOKSReview: untitled [pp. 120-120]Review: untitled [pp. 120-121]Review: untitled [pp. 121-122]Review: untitled [pp. 122-122]Review: untitled [pp. 122-123]Review: untitled [pp. 123-123]

    FROM THE JOURNAL OF 1871 [pp. 124-124]LIBRARY ADDITIONS [pp. 124-125]Back Matter