Saturday, March 25, 2017

"Detail from Sargent's Mrs George Swinton" (oil on stretched canvas; 16" x 12")

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The painting is the copy of a detail from "Mrs George Swinton" (1897) by the master portraitist John Singer Sargent. The original hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mrs. George Swinton epitomizes the painterly virtuosity that made John Singer Sargent one of the most favored portraitists of fashionable Europeans and Americans in the late 19th century. Extravagant color and brushwork were central to Sargent's success, as was his ability to present an image of his sitter that adhered to social standards.

In Elizabeth Swinton's case, he accentuated her regal bearing and feminine satin dress. She was also known for her musical talents; at the time her portrait was executed, she was recognized as an amateur singer and later began performing professionally. Swinton's pose indicates both the poise of a performer and the countenance of a fashionable socialite.

As it happens, Sargent is one of my favorite artists. When Danni Dawson gave her portrait painting class an assignment to copy a portion of his portrait with the emphasis on how he handled satin fabrics, I picked this painting. Look at Mrs Swinton's gorgeous dress and the arm chair her right hand holds on to so elegantly!

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