Sargent's Life through his writing, paintings and drawings
WHEN the decade of the eighties began, the direction of painting in England, for the most part, was in the hands of the Academicians then at the height of their power. The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood had come to an end; no distinct movement had taken its place. Orthodoxy, as dictated from the walls of the Academy, held the field. Nonconformity was unorganized and looked at askance, alike by the elder painters, the public and the critics. The younger artists trained in Paris, when they returned with new methods and revolutionary ideas, could find no outlet for their art; the Academy turned its back, the critics were hostile, the public as a whole would have none of their handiwork.
But the forces of revolt had been gathering. In 1877 Sir Coutts Lindsay opened the Grosvenor Gallery with the avowed intention of giving painters a chance, whose works had "previously been imperfectly known to the public. ,, To the first exhibition Millais, Alma Tadema, Watts, Poynter, all sent pictures, and while it is true that works by Holman Hunt, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Walter Crane and Whistler were also shown, it was clear from the first that the Royal Academy was again to be a dominating influence. Whistler was represented by several pictures, one of which, The Falling Rocket, was to be famous in the Law Courts. It was upon this picture that Ruskin made on July 2, 1877, in "Fors Clavigera," his famous comment: "I have seen and heard much of cockney impudence before now, but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public's face." Whistler, regarding this as a libel, took proceedings against Ruskin. The case was heard in November, 1878. Burne-Jones, Frith and Tom Taylor, the art critic of The Times, were called for the defence, and at the conclusion of the hearing Whistler was awarded one farthing damages, the judge, Baron I luddleston, ordering that each party should pay his own costs. The hearing gave Whistler a rare opportunity of exercising his wit, not a little to the discomfiture of Sir John Holker, the Attorney- General, who conducted the case for Ruskin as if he had been briefed, not by an aesthetic prophet, but by the Philistines themselves. One feature of the trial, which Lord Justice Bowen, who was junior counsel for Ruskin, used to detail with a wit no less polished than Whistler's, was the introduction into court of a Titian as an exhibit, designed to demonstrate to the jury what constituted "finish" in a painting. But the jury, fogged as they were by the display of other works of art, and the course which the case had taken, imagined they were being shown, not a Titian, but a Whistler, and would have none of it.
The stress laid throughout on what was called "finish" in a picture defines in a measure the artistic standard of the day. "Finish," indeed, might well be used as summarizing several of the principal qualities then considered essential in a picture. It was against this aspect of art, quite as much as against the subjects considered suitable to the walls of the Academy, that those influenced by French painting were protesting, as yet not very effectively.
The Pre-Raphaelite Movement, which began shortly before 1850, may be said to have come to an end about 1870. It was as definitely British in its origin as any school of painting that has flourished in England, and it was sincere. In conversation with Sir Edmund Gosse, Sargent claimed in addition for the Pre-Raphaelites that they "were passionate in their art." With Ruskin as its prophet, Millais (1829-96), Holman Hunt (1827- 1910) and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82) as its originators, and Ford Madox Brown (1821-93) as a principal ally, it aimed not merely at truth of representation, but at an emotionalism which was opposed to Classicism and vapid genre painting which the public confidently expected to see on the walls of the Academy. The founders of the movement sought for moral and poetic themes in the Bible, in Dante, and in the poetry of Keats, Tennyson and Coventry Patmore. The same care and finish was bestowed on every item, whether of leaf, blade of grass, wine- glass, table, cornfield or dining-room; though every object was selected with a premeditation inconsistent with Realism in its proper meaning. Past and Present, by Augustus Egg, and the Last Bay in ~the Old Home, by Robert Martineau, may be taken as illustrations. These are themes which might have been chosen by Hogarth, but whereas Hogarth would have imparted to them a quality and character true in their universality, the later Pre-Raphaelites have treated them with a sentimentally moral convention.
They record on canvas the Victorian mood. We see "respectability" confronted with a crisis, and behaving just as, from our knowledge of the tradition, we should expect; that is to say, in accordance not so much with the precepts of human nature, as after the pattern imposed by the conventions of the day.
Nothing, at any rate, could be further removed from the realism of Sargent. They represented a point of view which was the very antithesis of his own; deliberate and studied emotion never entered into his art. He was the last man in the world to tolerate sentimentality. Yet it is true that one of his favourite pictures was Take Your Son, Sir, by Ford Madox Brown, and that he entertained a deep admiration for Rossetti. Indeed, he owned a small engraving of Rossetti's, The Meeting of Arthur and Guinevere, which hung on the landing of his studio, and pointing to this on the very last occasion I saw him he said: "That is the difficult thing to do, anyone can paint, but to design a group so that it will — well, do in sculpture — that's what counts. Rossetti could do it." This was in 1925 when he had been for some time taken up with sculpture, and had executed some small bronzes, including Leda and the Swan, two figures from the nude, a Dancer, Death and Victory, Jove, a figure of Psyche and this very composition of Rossetti's. But in his art he certainly gave no outward sign of kinship with the Pre-Raphaelites; his appreciation, in fact, remained academic.
In technical methods, too, Sargent and the Pre-Raphaelites were as the Poles apart. The technique of the Pre-Raphaelites consisted in a "painting largely transparent, like water-colour
National Gallery, Millbank.
over a white ground, so that in brilliancy the effect is that of water-colour on white paper."* Their pictures were painted in many cases inch by inch, with minute and careful touches, copal varnish was used by them; they aimed at uniform brilliance in colour. To this the large, free and rapid brush-work of Sargent was entirely opposed, but difference of outlook and method never hindered him from admiring schools of painting other than his own.
When he came to London the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites had ceased since many years to be an active force in painting, only traces of it were to be seen here and there. As a recognized school, Pre-Raphaelitism had passed away.
The art situation in London was as different as possible from that which he had found ten years ago on entering the studio of Carolus Duran. In Paris there were recognized schools of painting, each with its accomplished masters. There, dogmatism had been forced to give way before search and enquiry and new ideas. Academism, if not actually dethroned, had ceased to command the deference necessary to authority. In London nothing of the kind had happened. The Grosvenor Gallery was, it is true, carrying on a separate existence, but the Academicians were year by year tending to crowd out all hetero- generous exhibitors; the advance-guard of Modernism was being outmanoeuvred.
To a young foreign artist accustomed to the enthusiastic daring and variety of Parisian painting, English Academic art must have seemed cold, slightly devitalized and over-formal — whether his eyes dwelt upon Leighton's gentlemanly and accomplished renderings of classical and mythological subjects, Watts' ethical sermons in paint, Tadema's slick and careful studies of make-believe Greek and Roman life, or Poynter's correct and elegant studies in a similar field. Even the genius of Burne-Jones must have struck him as timidly remote, seeking "out of sight the ends of being and eternal grace," and pursuing beauty through the romantic by-ways of an exotic world. Millais, perhaps alone among the leading artists, could be cited as a colourist and draughtsman combined. But Millais, now showing little trace of Pre-Raphaelitism with its minute adherence to visible facts, was adopting a different technique and applying it to approved Academy subjects, such as Cherry Ripe and the North-West Passage.
* See D. S. MacColl, "Nineteenth Century Art," pp. 129-130.
By 1885, when Sargent took up his residence in Tite Street, authority was about to lose the vigour of its hold. It was already being said that "the Royal Academy would be quite good if it wasn't for the Royal Academicians." The inadequacy of the Grosvenor and the hostility of the Academy were compelling the younger spirits to take the matter into their own hands. London was every year receiving a number of young artists who, having finished their studies in Paris, were bent on finding for themselves the opening for their art which was denied them at Burlington House. In 1886, accordingly, after many meetings and the surmounting of many difficulties, the New English Art Club, a group of some fifty young artists, "all more or less united in their art sympathies," as the catalogue stated, opened their first exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery. Sargent had been invited to contribute and sent a small Impressionist Study, and a portrait of Mrs. Barnard. Others connected with the movement in its early stages were Professor Brown, Jacques Blanche, G. Clausen, Alfred East, Mark Fisher, Walter Sickert, T. C. Gotch, Maurice Grieffenhagen, Arthur Hacker, Sir John Lavery, Alfred Parsons, J. J. Shannon, Wilson Steer, Adrian Stokes, Edward Stott, H. S. Tuke and later Professor Tonks. Lord Leighton predicted that the movement would last three years; the New English Art Club still continues to hold its annual exhibition. The common bond of this group of painters was French influence — and if any element of what is best in French art and theory has passed into English painting it should be remembered that the pioneers in England were the New English Art Club, at whose first exhibition Sargent was a contributor.
Almost at the same time a new movement was starting in Scotland. There, as in England, while there were artists who painted with distinction, the general trend was toward sentimental genre pictures. Portrait painting, too, had become more and more literal, smooth and exact, and landscape more and more conventional, formal and obvious. The Academy- was doing nothing to discountenance these general tendencies; on the contrary, Scottish Academism standardized the evils which the younger painters were trying to combat. The banner of revolt was raised in Glasgow, and the honour of giving birth to the "Glasgow school" fell to the great commercial centre of Scotland. It was here that towards 1880 W. G. MacGregor and James Patterson were joined by James Guthrie, E. A. Walton, George Henry and Joseph Crawhall, a young painter from Newcastle. In 1884 this group of painters received an accession of strength in John Lavery and A. Roche, just then fresh from Paris. The general characteristics of the group have been summarized by Mr. Caw in his volume of "Scottish Painting." "Prettiness," he writes, "and sentimentality and subject in the old sentimental sense were condemned, and broad powerful painting, full in tone and true in value was cultivated." Just as "values" had been the watchword in France since 1830, so now they were becoming correspondingly important in the art of Scotland.
Landscape painting was carried on at Cockburnspath, a centre established by Sir James Guthrie in East Lothian, and here the revolutionary forces gathered in much the same way as half a century earlier the French landscape painters, in a similar spirit of innovation, had made Barbizon their head- quarters. The common relation between the members of this group lay in a general resolve to seek emancipation from the traditions of which the Academy was the janitor and guardian. To this end, in varying degrees, they followed other tendencies in painting; the Barbizon school, the school of Manet, Bastien Lepage, Whistler and through him the Japanese, Velasquez and Franz Hals, and the great Italians, were all eagerly sought as guides.
The outlook that resulted was essentially cosmopolitan. Realism and Impressionism each played its part, but personal characteristics, as was inevitable in a group each member of which had his own idea of how to combat stereotyped picturesqueness and anecdotalism, in the end prevailed. Different lines of radiation and progress from a common centre were gradually discovered, and each painter began to travel along his own road. The critic of The Times, writing of the Academy Exhibition in 1882, indirectly expressed the prevailing antagonism to the French school of painting. Writing of what he called the Idyllic School he said:
This idyllic school, as it has been called was simply the offspring from the work of such men as Mason, Pinwell and Walker, and had it not been for the early and almost simultaneous deaths of those artists it would have struck permanent root in our art. This as it seems to us, is the mine of feeling which needs working, this is the healthy direction in which our artists should be encouraged to tread. But with perhaps the exception of Jules Breton and Josef Israels, the influence of all continental Schools is against any such method.
This extract shows that both the critics and the public were more exercised about the subject-matter of pictures than questions of technique and method. In England the Romantic Movement had been dying very slowly, and at the beginning of the eighties Realism, cradled and nourished in France, was still regarded as a dangerous and insidious force, inconsistent with, if not destructive of, great art. The plea of The Times critic on behalf of the Idyllic School was a summons to a rear guard action to drive back the invaders. In literature, too, Realism was drifting across the Channel. The year 1880 had seen the publication of "Les Soirees de Medan," containing Sac au Dos and Boule de Suif. In the early eighties Maupassant (1850-93) was challenging the popularity of Zola (1840-95), while Alphonse Daudet (1840-97), the Goncourts and M. J. K. Huysmans were all contributing to the ascendancy of Realism. In England the death, in 1881, of George Eliot, Carlyle and Borrow brought an epoch to a close. The way was opening for the new influence. George Moore, "Mark Rutherford " and George Gissing were, each in his own manner, proclaiming the new era. Thus side by side with the painters returning from Paris, the younger writers in England were giving support to the same influences already dominant in France.
While the interaction of literature and painting may easily be overstated, there is always a tendency for the same point of view to permeate both branches of artistic expression. At a given time one art may be in advance of the other, but in the end the two will be found, for at least a while, to be moving concurrently abreast. The Classic, Romantic and Realistic Movements have each in turn become a principal factor in both pictorial and literary art. Art cannot escape the influence of life. And if this be true, it is often the portrait painter who first reflects contemporary influence. We can see at a glance that the society painted by Goya differs from the society painted by Velasquez; that the men and women on the canvases of Watts and Millais are of a different order from those who figure in the work of Reynolds and Gainsborough. This is due, not only to the methods of the painters and the fashions of the sitters, to technique and dressmaking, but to the circumstances and conditions of the particular epoch. A portrait painter therefore interprets not merely those he paints, but through them he interprets the society in which they live, move and have their being. Sargent for twenty-five years was engaged in portrait painting in London, and, as in the case of every great portrait painter, it will be found that not a few of the characteristics common to these years are summarized in his portraits. In the eighties the way was open for new talent, for a painter like Sargent, whose natural gifts had been disciplined in the studios of Paris, and who could bring to the art of portrait painting originality, unrivalled powers of execution, and a certain daring in representing and interpreting his fellow-men, without departing, however, too violently from tradition.
IN April, 1885, after a winter of work in London, Sargent joined his family at Nice. Two letters to Miss Strettell (Mrs. Harrison) show his preoccupation at this time with music.
My dear Comaniac,
I have just got a note from Mrs. Fraser which makes me remain stupid, as you say at a certain watering place which you so often advertise. I am to go with you and Mrs. Liszt to the Liszt concert "dont Tivoire a le trac." You must ask him to play even without his notes.
I suppose I am indebted to Comyns Carr for this treat which I hope I may repay by a series of amiable processes. ... I have begun two portraits and am getting them well under way before leaving for Paris about the 15th to finish them when I return 15th May. I shall see you I suppose at (illegible) little play . . . and I will rejoice for are we not the two Comaniacs and is not Wagner our strait Jacket ? He is.
John S. Sargent.
. . . Richter's plans are now known. "The Grand Wagner Night" is on June 7th and June 10th same programme 2nd Act of Tristan and almost entire 3rd Act of Siegfried with Malten, Gudehns, Henschel etc. The concerts before contain nothing for us and the last one is Beethoven Missa Solemnis. How are you enjoying Porto Fino ? "Will it wash ? " as Violet Paget says of Venice. Since that remark I have not written to her. I am very well hung at the Academy and Grosvenor and cheerful on that score. Most of my friends are out of town Abbey and Millet at Broadway, Mrs. Playfair and Mrs. Harrison at Aix. Yours ever, Comaniac
STUDY OF CROCODILES
In the summer of 1886 he again visited his family, who were living at Gossensass, then no more than the hotel and a few chalets, near the newly opened railway on the Brenner. Gossensass may be remembered as the spot chosen by Ibsen in which to spend the summer months between 1883 and 1893, and as the scene, in 1889, of his meeting with the young Viennese lady Miss Emilie Bardach, who suggested the heroine of the "Master Builder."* Ibsen was then sixty-one. Nine years later he wrote: "That summer at Gossensass was the most beautiful and the most harmonious portion of my whole existence. I scarcely venture to think of it and yet I think of nothing else. Ah! forever!" Ibsen was certainly there at the time of Sargent's visit, but there is no record of their becoming acquainted. These visits meant no pause in Sargent's out- put of work. He would arrive at the station loaded with canvases and sketch-books, bristling with the equipment for plein air sketching, and with these piled up round him in a fly he would draw up at his destination dominant and smiling. No infatuated fisherman, arriving beside a chalk stream on a summer evening, could be more on the tiptoe of expectation than Sargent on these occasions. To the end of his days he had the supreme gift of being able to look forward, with the certainty of discovering excitement in new scenes and places.
He habitually took thought for the morrow, but not of the anxious kind; it was thought rich in anticipation of what the next day would bring forth. Few artists can have rejoiced as much in the exercise of their calling; certainly none can have practised it with more singleness of purpose. But it was away from his portraits, on the canals of Venice or the plains of Palestine, in the passes of the high Alps or among the dancers of Spain, or the fountains and cypresses of Italy and the gardens of Sicily, or, again, at Capri or Corfu, or on any one of the count- less journeys that he made with friends, that his spirit was most at ease and serene — anywhere, in fact, where he could "make the best of an emergency" as he called painting a water-colour. And an emergency was seldom wanting. Mrs. de Glehn recalls
* Edmund Gosse, "Ibsen" (1907), p. 169.
how on a hot day in Italy, having missed a connection at a junction, the party had to wait a considerable time. The rest of them had no thought but how to keep cool, but Sargent at once unpacked his easel and in the great heat he brought off one of his most brilliant studies of white oxen outside the station. This is a typical instance of his zeal, which coined even the accidents of life into opportunity.
In the late summer of 1886 he was back again at Broadway, finishing Carnation, Lily Lily Rose.
In 1887 he was invited to go to America to paint the portrait of Mrs. Marquand, but he was reluctant to relinquish the hold he was acquiring in London; orders had been coming in quicker than he expected. He was beginning to find unlooked-for sympathies in his new surroundings, and while critical opinion was still very divided about his work, he was everywhere recognized for better or for worse as a new force in painting. This year (1887) he was represented in the Academy by Carnation, Lily Lily Rose and his portrait of Mrs. William Play/air, and in the exhibition of the New English Art Club by the sketch of Mr. and Mrs. R. L. Stevenson and The Portrait of a Lady. He had also painted Dr. William Playfair, Edith Lady Playfair, Mrs. Charles Inches and Mrs. Charles Fairchild. When, there- fore, the invitation to visit America arrived, he named a price which he believed would be deterrent, but his offer was accepted. It was never easy to him to refuse; it was always distasteful to him to disappoint. Within the limits of fidelity to his art, it was his way to think more of what others wanted than of what was most attractive to himself. His mild subterfuge having failed, he resolved on his second expedition to the U.S.A. In July he was at the Henley Regatta with a party of friends staying for a week at the Shiplake Inn, and this "outing" was repeated again in July, 1888. On this second occasion Alfred Parsons was host at the Red House, Shiplake.
In a letter to Claude Monet Sargent expresses admiration for a picture by that Master which he had recently bought,* and described efforts of his own to paint Thames scenery.
* The picture Rock at Treport was sold at the Sargent sale, July, 1925.
Mon cher Monet,
C'est avec beaucoup du mal que je m'arrachc de devant votre delicieux tableau pour lequel " vous ne partagez pas mon admiration " (quelle blague !) pour vous redire combien je l'admire. Je resterais la devant pendant des heures entieres dans un etat d'abrutissement voluptueux ou d'enchantment si vous preferez. Je suis ravi d'avoir chez moi une telle source de plaisir.
Vous, ne dites rien de votre projet de venir, a Londres a l'automne. II me serait presque agreable de lesavoirremisparceque jeserai absent en Amerique. J'ai des commandes de portraits la bas et une occasion tres agreable d'y aller passer deux mois. Je pars le 17 Septembre.
Quoique j'ai beaucoup travaille dernierement sur la Tamise je n'ai rien comme resultat. C'est un peu parceque ce sacre projet de voyage me rendait impossible l'achevement de mon tableau, et puis les diffi- cultes materielles faire des gens en bateau sur l'eau, entre bateaux etc.
Je vous envoie ce que j'aurais du vous envoyer il y a longtemps. Si vous trouvez des difficult.es a toucher ... les banquiers Drexel, Harjes et Cie 31 Bd. Haussman connaissent ma signature.
Cher Monet je vous remercie et je vous aime. Comme artiste,
alors, je vous adore.
J John S. Sargent.
Je ne suis pas gris.
Sargent considered that Claude Monet had exercised a greater influence on art than any modern painter, and some letters written several years later give his reasons; for the moment, however, it is worth noting that in 1888 he was expressing his admiration for Monet in terms of warmest eulogy.
On September 17 Sargent sailed for America. He remained there during the winter 1887-88. It was just the ordinary experience of strenuous work, mostly carried out at Boston where late in December, at the St. Botolph Club, Newbury Street, there was an exhibition of some twenty of his pictures. These included El Jaleo (shortly before this date purchased by the Hon. Jefferson Coolidge), portraits of Mrs. Marquand, Mrs. Inches, Mrs. Brandegee, Mrs. Boit, Mrs. Gardner, and the picture of the Boit Children, as well as some of his smaller studies done in Italy.
It was the first occasion on which America had had the chance to realize that in Sargent they could claim as a countryman a painter of the first rank. The vigour and freedom of his work, its directness of statement and sincerity, its brilliant variation from the stereotyped conventions of the day, and its masterly and summary adaptation of means to a given end, made a pro- found impression on the American public. Henceforward his position in the United States was assured.
American appreciation, the sense of being a prophet in his own country, probably brought him as much solid satisfaction as the whole volume of praise and fame which was bestowed on him in Europe. America, indeed, was a much more constant motive for his actions than was generally supposed. His decorative work at Boston — and it is but only one instance of many — was prompted by this national allegiance, and to this has to be added his constant desire that America should be the home of so large a share of his best work. When the Metropolitan Museum acquired the portrait of Madame Gautreau, when El Jaleo was installed at Fenway Court, and when Boston bought the great series of water-colours which now adorns the Museum of that city, he was keenly pleased. Though his nationality was not apparent on the surface, and though he was not bound by close personal associations, the idea of his country and of his obligations as an American citizen never left him.
In 1887 he did six illustrations for Miss Strettell's (Mrs. Harrison's) "Spanish and Italian Folk Songs." It is to be regretted that the book is out of print on account not only of the illustrations admirable in design and quality, but for the beauty of the translations themselves.
In the early part of 1888 Sargent was back in England. His family had spent the winter in Florence, where his father had been struck down by a paralytic stroke. In the spring it was decided to bring him to England, and a house was leased for the summer at Calcot, Reading. Such time as he could spare from his work in London Sargent now spent with his family at Calcot. In the winter they moved to Bournemouth, to a house near Skerryvore, the former home of R. L. Stevenson. It was here, in April, 1889, that FitzWilliam Sargent died.
Since his seizure at Florence Sargent's father had been an invalid, his contacts with the world broken, his memory affected, and his capacity for movement gravely impaired. Sargent watched over him with a "lovely happiness of temper" and constant solicitude. The last months of the father's life were eased by the ministering care of the son. Yet Sargent did not, as a rule, suffer invalids gladly; by nature robust, he was so seldom ill himself that he was inclined to think others were apt to surrender too easily. When, in later years, he was subject himself to inroads of influenza he was singularly obstinate in working up to the last possible moment, then only to pursue unaided methods of salvation in the austere surroundings of his Tite Street bedroom. But those whose memories of him go back to 1889 recall vividly the rare quality of the tenderness with which he soothed the last months of his father's life. Before his father's death he had taken the vicarage at Fladbury, near Pershore, and there the succeeding summer was spent by the family. His visitors were Vernon Lee, Miss Anstruther Thom- son, M. and Madame Helleu, Miss Flora Priestley, Miss Strettell, Alden Weir, the Richardsons, Judge Patterson and Major Harold and Mrs. Roller, as well as the colony from Broadway some nine miles distant. Here Sargent painted two portraits of Miss Priest- ley, and one of M. and Madame Helleu in a Canoe.
THE MORNING WALK.
There is no doubt that in 1888 and 1889 Sargent was definitely experimenting in Impressionism. He was busy painting the play of light on sunlit water, catching the exact flicker, the ripple of the reflections, and their fleeting effect on objects within range. He made several studies of his sister, Mrs. Ormond, under these conditions; one a full-length, Fishing, was shown at the Memorial Exhibition at Burlington House, another is reproduced opposite p. 100.
These pictures show a delicacy of touch and a tenderness of colour which give place to other qualities in his later work. The charm we see here is not the charm we are accustomed to look for in the work of subsequent years. It is more intimate and personal, more subtle and pervasive. Broken touches, here and there broken colour, lightness of key, harmony of tone, unity of effect, and contrast reduced to its lowest terms — the characteristics, in fact, associated with Impressionism are found in the studies of this period. He was at the time under the influence of Monet's picture of the Rock at Treport, then in his possession and referred to in his letter; but that influence waned. Sargent turned away from this phase of his painting, and by 1890 he had reverted to the style with which he was more familiar. The picture of Mrs. Ormond* justifies the wish that there had been other interludes in his career of a like kind; not certainly at the expense of his greater manner, but as occasional pieces, as lyrics set in drama, or idylls in a book of odes.
Sargent has invested the figure of a young woman sauntering on a sunny day beside a river in the month of June with all the poetry that such a subject can suggest. Her beautifully modelled head is framed by her open sunshade, the light from the water is reflected on her face, and seems to move as it plays on the inner surface of the sunshade; the frame thus formed is completed by the gloved hands, one of which holds the stick of the parasol while the other grasps one of the corners of the sunshade. The figure of a girl in a white dress, the foliage, the still water, the meadow beside which she walks are bathed in sunlight. As she moves "over the gleam of the living grass," she communes with her inner thoughts, her lips slightly parted, her mind detached from the scene of which she forms a delicate and illumined feature.
Monsieur and Madame Helleu
This year, 1889, he exhibited at the Academy portraits of Sir George Henschel, Mrs. George Gribble and Henry Irving; at the New English Art Club, A Morning Walk, and St. Martin s Summer, and at the New Gallery the well-known picture of Miss Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth. In reference to his portrait of Ellen Terry he wrote to Mrs. Gardner as follows:
33, Tite Street,
Dear Mrs. Gardner,
Am I in time to forestall the conclusion that I forget my friends ? I should dislike such a reputation and being a very bad correspondent I seem to invite it. Horrible injustice ! It shows the utter inanity of logical inferences.
* Exhibited at New English Art Club, 1889.
M. AND MADAME HKLLEU.
You know several of the people whom I am painting now, sol shall talk shop. Henschel, Miss Huxley, Ellen Terry; if one can say one is painting, when sittings resolve themselves into sitting by the fire or at the piano with lamps at two in the afternoon. There ought to be a Tower Eiffel here with studios at the top. Miss Terry has just come out in Lady Macbeth and looks magnificent in it, but she has not yet made up her mind to let me paint her in one of the dresses until she is quite convinced that she is a success. From a pictorial point of view there can be no doubt about it — magenta hair !
I am going to Paris in the Spring for the Jury of '89 and to paint a portrait or two. Will you be there in March or April ?
With best wishes for a happy New Year,
John S. Sargent.
The dress for Lady Macbeth was designed by Mrs. Comyns- Carr, who relates on the first night of the play Sargent shared her box and, on the appearance of Ellen Terry on the stage, exclaimed with that lingering intonation so familiar to those who knew him, "I say!" It was a sign in him, unpretentious in itself as a schoolboy's expression of delight, that he had been "bowled over."
He also sent six portraits to the United States Section of the Paris Exhibition; for these he was awarded a medal of honour and made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.
When Sir George Henschel wrote to express his thanks for his portrait, he received in reply a note which shows the gracious turn Sargent could give to such acknowledgments.
I must tell you (he wrote) what a great pleasure it has been to me that my venture at painting you has resulted in such a generous expression of satisfaction on your part and Mrs. Henschel's, greater than I have ever met with — and that with my means I have given you the pleasure that you always give me with yours and I should be quite satisfied with my portrait if I created in you the sentiment of sympathy which prompted me to do it.
A later letter to Sir George Henschel shows his consideration for younger artists. He was always ready to let them draw on his knowledge and also his resources — as if it were a matter of course they should, or, at any rate, keen pleasure to himself. Sir George had asked him to look at the work of a young artist
friend; Sargent wrote:
33, Tite Street,
My dear Henschel, (No date).
. . . very good naturedly brought his pictures here. The larger portrait of a man in an Inverness cape has a great deal of style and arrangement as well as extraordinarily thorough and minute drawing. You will I think see he is working in the right direction — I do decidedly — for it is evident that he has a much better sense of form than of colour and he is right in turning his attention to drawing. To try for colour (of which he seems to have no sense at all) would probably handicap him in his drawing and he had much better go on sacrificing everything to form and get the very most he can out of that. He ought to guard against his things having a certain photographic look. Please do not let him know that I have made this sort of report to you. He might think what I say about colour rather discouraging and unfair and whether consciously or not he is doing what I advise.
In the late summer of 1889 he was painting in Paris. It was the year of the Universal Exposition. In the following letter to Claude Monet he refers to his picture of the Javanese dancer:
Mon cher Monet, Jeudi.
Quelle idee ! J'ai ete horriblement occupe et je manque de timbres postes: voila qui explique mais n'excuse pas mon silence. J'aurais du repondre a une aussi gentille lettre qui etait tout a fait en harmonie avec ma facon de penser — c'est des felicitations banales qui m'auraient fait rire de votre part.
Je voudrais bien pouvoir m'arreter a Giverny mais les Javannaises me retiennent ici jusqu' au dernier moment qui est deja passe du reste. Il-y-a plus d'une semaine que je devrais etre en Angleterre.
Apropos du Olympia, j'ai vu Boldini qui donnera mille francs: j'ai en ami parle a Roll et a (illegible). Les deux approuvent et Roll donnera quelque chose mais (illegible) dit qu'il ne peut pas. Je n'ai pas vu Duret en personne. Je reste encore quelques jours ici.
Venez en Angleterre plus tard, mon addresse de Londres pour les lettres.
Bonne poignee de main et je vous en prie ne soyez jamais inquiet de mon affection. John S. Sargent.
As the letter shows, he was interesting himself in the purchase of Manet's Olympia for the Louvre.