Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"Detail from Sargent's 'Lady Agnew'" (oil on linen; 12" x 9")


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The painting is the copy of a detail from "Lady Agnew of Lochnaw" (1892) by the master portraitist John Singer Sargent. The original hangs in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.

Sargent's dazzling and unforgettable image of Lady Agnew is one of the most famous of his many portraits of fashionable London society. For both the artist and his sitter, the painting was an instant success, establishing Sargent's reputation as the portrait painter of choice for the London elite and immediately transforming the newly elevated Lady Agnew into a society celebrity.

Lady Agnew fixes the viewer with an intelligent, faintly amused gaze, but it is her elegant white silk dress and lilac sash that threaten to steal all our attention. Unfortunately, the sash didn't make into the small copy.

Sargent's image of Lady Agnew helped her to become a leading light in fashionable circles, holding lavish salons in her London home. Ironically, the high costs of this hospitality meant that she was eventually forced to sell some family pictures including this portrait which was purchased by the Scottish National Gallery in 1925.

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