The Tates

Thursday, October 9th, 2014




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I’ve previously gushed about how Mrs. Carl Meyer and Her Children is my favorite parent+kids portrait by Sargent. I’m so envious of you getting to see it in person!

And yes, I’ll definitely add Gwen John’s Self Portrait (1902) to the queue at theselfiemuseum. Thanks!

I remembered you having posted that one. What primarily struck me about it in person was how, in spite of her pink froofy dress and the ribbon in her hair, Mrs. Carl Meyer’s face does not look traditionally “feminine” in that portrait, either by modern standards or compared to women in other paintings from that same time period. I love that the portrait celebrates her without “softening” her face to make her look more like some culturally imposed ideal of womanly beauty. She looks really strong, and so do her children. 

That’s the thing, for me, about Sargent’s portraits. There’s an honesty to them. He obviously was good enough about representing his subjects in a manner that they appreciated that they were willing to pay large amounts to have him paint them, and there were some contemporary critics who sniffed about “flattery”. But I think that was mostly envy.

I believe that in his best work he strove to paint his subjects in a way that honestly reflected their personalities and (in the family portraits) the relationships between them. And this painting is a beautiful example of that.

Reposted from

fleurdulys: Mrs. Carl Meyer and Her Children – John Singer…

Monday, February 17th, 2014


Mrs. Carl Meyer and Her Children – John Singer Sargent


Sargent painted a number of portraits showing parents with their children. I love them all, but this one is my favorite.

When you look at a Sargent portrait, you don’t just see a beautiful rendering of the human form dressed in a particular way in a particular place. You see an actual person. You see someone you can imagine talking to, with dreams and opinions and emotions. And when he painted families he captured the relationships, the shared history, frozen at a moment in time.

All these people are gone now. When this portrait was painted Adele Meyer’s two children were 11 years old (the girl, Elsie Charlotte) and 10 (the boy, Frank). Elsie grew up to marry, was widowed, and remarried; Frank fought in World War I and was elected to Parliament in the 1920s before dying in a hunting accident in 1935. The web doesn’t say how or when Adele and Elsie died, though they surely grew old and passed away many years ago.

Yet there they are, alive, in layers of sticky oil on canvas.

Reposted from