John Singer Sargent
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John Singer Sargent (January 12, 1856 � April 14, 1925) was a painter known for his portraits. He is usually thought of as an American artist, although he lived most of his life in Europe. Sargent was born in Florence, Italy to American parents. He studied in Italy and Germany, and then in Paris under Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran.
Sargent developed a close friendship with fellow painter Paul C�sar Helleu. They met in Paris in 1878 when Singer was 22 and Helleu was 18. Sargent painted both Helleu and his wife Alice on several occasions.
Whether the friendship between Helleu and Sargent was intimate or not is completely open to speculation. As with most historical figures, Sargent has traditionally been assumed to be heterosexual, or, lacking evidence of this, it has been stated that his attractions would be irrelevant to his work. Sargent did not marry or pursue women, although his society certainly would have expected him to do so. Physical intimacy between men was still illegal in the United States and much of Europe at this point, and such laws may have influenced his choice of where to live if his primary attraction was to men. Most people have settled for saying that Sargent liked to paint women in their clothes and men out of them (he painted several male nudes in Europe and north Africa), and left the subject at that.
Sargent's portraits subtly capture the individuality and personality of the sitters; his most ardent admirers think he is matched in this only by Diego Vel�zquez, who was one of Sargent's great influences. Sargent's Portrait of Madame X, done in 1884, is now considered one of his best works, and was the artist's personal favourite. However, at the time it was unveiled in Paris at the 1884 Salon, it aroused such a negative reaction that it prompted Sargent to move to London.
Although Sargent lived in the United States for less than one year, some of his best work is in the U.S., including his decorations for the Boston Public Library. He also completed portraits of two U.S. presidents: Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
Sargent is usually not thought of as an impressionist painter, but he sometimes used impressionistic techniques to great effect, and his Claude Monet Painting at the Edge of a Wood is rendered in an impressionist style.
Sargent painted a series of three portraits of Robert Louis Stevenson. The second, Portrait of Robert Lous Stevenson and his Wife (1885), was one of his best known.
During the greater part of Sargent's career, he created roughly 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolours, as well as countless sketches and charcoal drawings. About 1910 Sargent forsook portraits and focused on landscapes in his later years; he also dabbled with sculpting later in life.
In a time when the art world was focused on impressionism and emphasizing artistic individuality, Sargent emphasized his own form of Realism and regularly did commissioned portraits of the wealthy, such as the one of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Newton Phelps-Stokes in 1897. Thus, he was dismissed as an anachronism at the time, but appreciation of his art has grown since his death.
John Singer Sargent is interred in Brookwood Cemetery near Woking, Surrey.
Portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson and his Wife sold in 2004 for $8.8 million to Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn to be installed at his newest casino, Wynn Las Vegas.
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