life-imitates-art-far-more: John Singer Sargent…

Saturday, April 14th, 2018


John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
“Lady Agnew of Lochna” (1892-1893)
Oil on canvas
Located in the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland

Andrew Noel Agnew, a barrister who had inherited the baronetcy and estates of Lochnaw in Galloway, commissioned this painting of his young wife, Gertrude Vernon (1865-1932), in 1892. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1898 and put Sargent on the map. The sculptor Auguste Rodin described him as ‘the Van Dyck of our times.’ Portrait commissions poured in and Sargent enjoyed something of a cult following in Edwardian society. It also launched Lady Agnew as a society beauty.

The phrase “put Sargent on the map” seems… iffy to me. Sargent was already on the map by 1898. He’d been doing well as a portraitist in England since the exhibition of Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose in 1887, and had been well-known in France for years before that, though admittedly his portrait commissions dried up for a time in the wake of the Madame X scandal in 1884.

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