John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), an American artist and one of the leading figures in portrait painting, was born in Florence, Italy. Sargent died of heart disease on April 14, 1925, in England. His representative works include Madame X, President Theodore Roosevelt, A Morning Walk, and Nude Egyptian Girl.
Sargent's father was a famous doctor in Philadelphia, and his mother was a watercolor painter and the daughter of a wealthy leather merchant. Sargent was born while his parents were traveling in Florence, and he had two younger sisters under him.
Sargent learned Italian, English, and French at an early age and showed excellent aptitude and talent in both art and music. Benefiting from the influence of his mother, Sargent loved painting since childhood, and he entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence when he was 14 years old. In 1874, John Singer Sargent entered the École des Beaux-Arts in France to study painting. Sargent met the French artist Paul César Helleu, and with Helleu's introduction, Sargent met the masters Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, and other artists. In April 1876, Sargent realized something when he first saw Manet and Monet's light and color expressions at the Impressionist exhibition. He was determined to absorb the representational methods of these master painters, even though his reputation for portraiture had already been established by this time.
He came to the United States in 1876 and became a U.S. citizen. He stayed in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and other countries for a long time, engaged in the creation, and mostly made portraits for the upper class. In 1877, Sargent caused quite a stir with his portrait of Fanny Watts. In 1879, the portrait of his teacher Carolus-Duran received public recognition. After 1890, he also produced many religious murals, and in 1879 he went to Spain to study the work of Velazquez, and after 1910 he became passionate about watercolor landscapes. Sargent died in his sleep in April 1925. Although Sargent's achievements were overlooked for a while after his death, they were gradually recognized and became a representative figure in the history of British and American painting, together with Whistler.
John Singer Sargent's early works were mainly influenced by the impressionist style, with bright tones and relaxed brush strokes, giving the viewer a lively and dynamic feeling. Later, he studied the style of the Spanish painter Velasquez. Sargent's portraits are characterized by delicate brushwork, smooth lines, and subtle handling of color and light, depicting people with their own personalities. While many painters were prolific in their portraits, Sargent paid special attention to the figures' individuality, mannerisms, and representations. Sargent captures the subtle yet dynamic side of the people in his paintings, and these figures seem to jump directly off the canvas and communicate with the viewer's soul in front of the painting.
Sargent was a hard-working, well-researched painter who could learn anywhere, anytime. At the same time, he was an extremely serious artist. He emphasized the need for painters to always be keenly observant and to shed anything unnecessary in the treatment of their images boldly. Often Sargent also felt dissatisfied with his own work. Especially in his later years, although his art was much appreciated, he did not care and continued to search for improvements. At the age of 35, he was already regarded by the British painting community as the world's most distinguished portrait painter.
Sargent devoted his life to the art of painting and never married, ignoring the world's pomp and glory and following his own artistic path wholeheartedly. During his lifetime, he created about 2,500 to 3,000 paintings, including more than 400 portraits, almost none of which are identical.
His famous portraits include The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, Portrait of Carolus-Duran, Lady with the Rose, Mrs. Henry White, and The Misses Vickers.
Because he was of American descent, his name is written in the history of American painting. However, he was also a frequent resident of London, a member of the Royal Society of Watercolorists, and a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Academy of Fine Arts, and thus has a very important place in the history of British watercolor painting.