Articles, Blog

John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal

January 29, 2020


I’m Colin B Bailey director of the
Morgan Library Museum John Singer Sargent was one of the
greatest portrait artists of his time while he is best known for his powerful
paintings he largely ceased painting portraits in 1907 and turned instead to
charcoal drawings to satisfy the continuing demand for portrait
commissions Sargent’s drawn portraits represent a substantial it often
overlooked part of his practice and they demonstrate the same sense of immediacy
and psychological sensitivity that animates Sargent sitters on canvas our
exhibition explores the artists expressive portraits in charcoal and
recognizes the sheer scale of sergeants achievement as a portrait draftsman John
Singer Sargent portraits in charcoal is on view at the Morgan Library & Museum
between October 4th 2019 through January 12 2020. When we think of Sargents
portraiture we think of these large full-length oil paintings in 1907 when
Sargent was at the peak of his powers he was done painting portraits he wrote to
one friend saying “I abhor and abjure them and I hope never to do another
especially of the upper classes” Sargent’s clients still wanted to have
their portraits made by the artist and so he came up with doing them in
charcoal as a kind of compromise with charcoal he could produce a portrait in
less than three hours an oil portrait by contrast could take
weeks or months Sargent made in his lifetime over 750 of these charcoal
portraits most of them have never been seen before it’s an entirely overlooked
aspect of his career and when you look at them they have a kind of freshness to
them they’re reminiscent of his paintings in the way that he captures
the vivacity of his sitters but the charcoal gives them a kind of
spontaneity that is completely unique to the drawings and really showcase his
talents as a portrait draftsman all of the charcoal portraits in this
exhibition were intended as autonomous works of art they weren’t studies for
later paintings but were rather intended to simply serve as a work of art in and
of them when you look at the portraits in this
exhibition you’re getting a good glimpse into Sargent social network he was so
popular in his portraiture that you really had to have an in with the artist
in order to get a sitting at the same time many of the people that Sargent
portrayed weren’t some of his dearest friends there’s never been a major
exhibition devoted to these portraits exhibition brings together over 50 of
his portraits and charcoal which gives a great sense of his abilities as a
draftsman and his abilities to render the people that he knew and was
interested in

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31 Comments

  • Reply Mia Feigelson October 5, 2019 at 1:45 am

    I'd like to thank Laurel Peterson, Moore Curatorial Fellow at The Morgan Library & Museum, for the highly interesting information about the portraits in charcoal made by John Singer Sargent when he decided to stop executing oil portraits as regularly as he had done before 1907.
    Thanks for sharing the highlights of the Exhibition which I find simply wonderful, as wonderful as the Exhibition Catalogue by Richard Louis Ormond.
    Wishing you the very best !

  • Reply Max Ravenous October 5, 2019 at 5:25 am

    Anyone know exactly what kind of charcoal he was using at that time? Fixatives? Looks light enough to be natural charcoal, or was he using an old type of compressed charcoal crayon …

  • Reply timowthie October 13, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    I still have yet to find the way he drew. Like I know he drew on ingres paper or a bond paper. With charcoal. But I can never get the subtlety of tones that he achieved.

  • Reply London59 October 16, 2019 at 9:13 pm

    Please bring this exhibition to Canada!

  • Reply La Porta D October 18, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    Those who can't do, teach lol.

  • Reply Rich October 23, 2019 at 1:21 am

    진짜 잘 그린다~

  • Reply Graphico 1 October 23, 2019 at 5:39 am

    please do a book of these masterpieces.

  • Reply Miley onDisney October 24, 2019 at 2:16 am

    Her vocal fry sawed through my ear drums!

  • Reply jose villalobos October 24, 2019 at 3:16 am

    wtf with the crunchy laurel voice?

  • Reply 600살 튜브 October 25, 2019 at 2:42 am

    Nice to meet you.
    Good paintings.
    I like it.
    See you later ^^

  • Reply MASTER BLASTER October 25, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    I'll be going to this show next week – see you there

  • Reply Vincent Cooper October 25, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    That female commentator's vocal fry voice is extremely irritating. What's happened to the American female voice?

  • Reply Maria Acosta October 26, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    I work for the Las Cruces Museum of Art (in New Mexico) It would amazing if we could have that exhibit here!

  • Reply mickmcnic1 October 26, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Are there any plans to bring this exhibition to the UK?

  • Reply Doug G October 27, 2019 at 2:25 am

    Oh god! I’m done

  • Reply david king October 27, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    Sargent is my fav american painter

  • Reply david king October 27, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    really masterpieces

  • Reply Zac Hampson October 28, 2019 at 12:10 am

    God, could they please put these all into a 700pg book!

  • Reply Judith Lauron October 30, 2019 at 4:28 am

    I just melt when I see this genius work….Love you J.S.Sargent….

  • Reply Kate Wild October 30, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    I would love to see this exhibition please bring it to the U.K people would flock to see it.

  • Reply Jay Kullar October 31, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Wow the thumbnail looks like alia bhatt

  • Reply Callie Summerlin October 31, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    How amazing.. I wish I could visit this exhibit. What a dream!

  • Reply Slappy October 31, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    Only an artist could be enough of an ass to hate his own talent. Some people just need a good swift kick in the jewels.

  • Reply 钟煊 November 4, 2019 at 8:58 am

    我爱老萨

  • Reply Mike Oakley November 5, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Stunning work.

  • Reply bill nickels November 6, 2019 at 2:58 am

    brilliant idea

  • Reply Johnson Joseph Rozario November 7, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    2.40 – Who is the beauty?

  • Reply Kenyce November 9, 2019 at 4:47 am

    Gawd please teleport me there, he was one of the GOAT man :'(

  • Reply sNb November 9, 2019 at 10:44 am

    I was just in New York. Can't believe I missed it.

  • Reply George Wills December 28, 2019 at 10:59 pm

    "…greatest of his time." Of all time. Maybe the greatest.

  • Reply xjAlbert December 30, 2019 at 3:51 am

    Breath-taking humanity! Thank you, Morgan Library, for bringing this exhibition together!

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