John Singer Sargent

Richard Ormond & Elaine Kilmurray

Portraits of Artists and Friends

One of the “must see” exhibitions of 2015 has to be the John Singer Sargent, Portraits of Artists and Friends show at the National Portrait Gallery, London. It is accompanied by a terrific new book by Richard Ormond who is the co-author (with Elaine Kilmurray) of the Complete Paintings  of his great-uncle, John Singer Sargent.

In many ways, for an artist like myself, this new book is one of the best by Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray as it contains full size plates of many of the paintings featured in the exhibition and a few of Sargent’s more well known works like Lady Agnew. The book is available from the National Portrait Gallery Shop for £35 (extremely good value) or you can buy it online from Amazon. 

The advantage of the larger plates is that you get a closer view of the amazing brush marks and texture that Sargent used to such great effect.

What is apparent in this exhibition is just how Sargent appears to be even more relaxed and confident in the company of those close friends who were celebrities in their own right. Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet and Antonio Manchini are amongst the cast of artists. Also included are the well known writers Robert Louis Stevenson and Henry James together with a number of famous singers, musicians, dancers and actresses.

Although these portraits can be seen as informal on one level, they also show just how creative Sargent was at getting his subject to sit for him. For example, I find his portrait of his mentor Carolus-Duran utterly engaging. I flit between seeing myself as the one being challenged to paint Sargent’s Parisian master. Or being tutored by Sargent himself, with him watching my tentative efforts at the easel. Finally I stand back as a bystander, watching the intimacy of the young Sargent in full concentration, considering each brush stroke, then wiping it away to replace it with a stroke executed with even greater authority.

The poses themselves are very well considered in terms of composition, lighting, movement and mood, helping us to enter into Sargent’s personal world and to connect with his friends.  He woos us with his virtuosity and skill with the brush. His draughtsmanship and use of colour is both breathtaking and full of life. Sargent gives us a privileged insight into his world and creates within us a hunger to discover more.

I went to exhibition in March, armed with my moleskine sketchbook and an array of charcoal pencils. I managed to draw 8 of the portraits on display which was pure fun, particularly later on in the afternoon when the crowds began to thin out and I was able to get much closer to the paintings.

Sargent Portrait

Charcoal drawing of Ernest-Ange Duez after John Singer Sargent

The exhibition continues until 25th May 2015. Go to the National Portrait Gallery website to book your tickets.

Some of the links on this post are affiliate links including the book “Sargent, Portraits of Artists and Friends” available from Amazon. If you click on the links and buy the books then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

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About alan

British artist Alan Reed, was born in Corbridge in the North of England into a family with a history of painting. "I have been passionate about painting all my life and committed to helping others through my paintings". Alan trained as an illustrator / graphic designer in the North of England and spent the early part of his career doing artist impressions of new building projects for architects. Alan Reed specialises in landscapes, cityscapes and portraits both in watercolours and oils. His unique, fluid style captures the atmosphere of different settings from the drama of city life to the serenity and beauty of a rural landscape. Alan Reed has had many successful exhibitions both in the UK and abroad including those at the Mall Galleries in London, Malcolm Innes Gallery in Edinburgh, Italy, the USA and the Middle East and has been a regular exhibitor of rowing scenes in the Stewards’ Enclosure at the Henley Royal Regatta. 2013 Winner of "The Artist's Prize" in the Royal Watercolour Society Competition 2013 with his painting "Jebel Akhdar, Oman". The painting was exhibited at the Bankside Gallery, London.   2011 Alan Reed - Winner of the "Circus Painting Prize" in the Bath Prize. Alan Reed's painting of  “Pump Room in the Snow” was highly commended in the Bath Prize. 2011 Alan Reed - One of the finals with his painting of "Grey Street" in the "Show me the Monet" programme shown on BBC2. 2010 Alan Reed - 1st runner up in "The Bath Prize" with his original painting of "The Royal Crescent, Bath". Alan Reed's painting of the "The Roman Baths by Torchlight" was also highly commended in the Bath Prize. Artist Alan Reed's approach to painting is described in a book
entitled "Landscapes in Watercolour" by Theodora Philcox, an inspirational book which features the work of 23 leading watercolourists from around the world. The Middle East is an area to which Alan has given his artistic attention thanks to a series of ongoing commissions for the government of Oman. Alan’s work has become increasingly collectable and is widely represented internationally through private and corporate commissions including those for Royalty, Coutts Bank, Rolls Royce, Northern Rock PLC, several client’s private and corporate properties both in the UK and worldwide. We supply to Interior designers, Cruise ships, Corporate companies and galleries providing the perfect solution to meet all your needs. Portraits, Gift Vouchers, Sherree V-Daines, Sketchbook, Reviews, Painting Tips and Paintings for the Queen Worldwide Shipping www.alanreed.com