Archives for posts with tag: John Singer Sargent

Wish You Were Here

My old-fashioned ways of writing letters and sending thank you notes have led me to a pretty awesome collection of stationary and postcards.

In this electronic age, it is safe to say that some may never pick up an ink pen again.  But I don’t care how in love you are with your cell phones and laptops.  A handwritten card will forever produce a thrill.  (That is, until some idiot succeeds in nixing snail mail.)

For those of you who still write letters, you might appreciate my latest batch of outgoing mail – thank you notes to all the people I saw on my recent visit back home.  My favorite element of this primitive art?  Choosing the right card for the right person.

Baja Birds

My first trip outside…..

Baja Cactus

To Dad, who likes the desert.

Bob Marley

Bob – to my favorite hair dresser.

Boston Massacre

Sent the Boston Massacre postcard to the sister with whom I may never stop fighting.


I see you down there Jim and Joni!


Newport Beach has mermaids.

Simpleton Pass, Reading The Bridge of SighsBedouins

John Singer Sargent, a favorite artist.  Jim took me to his exhibit in Boston.

Todos Santos

Todos Santos, home of the original Hotel California.  Still have to make it there.


Convinced a bookstore owner to sell this off the wall of his hippie section.  Thanks, bud.


The first time realized I loved the work of John Singer Sargent was just one month ago, on a trip to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  It was a gray-tinted day with leaking skies.  I took the red line with Uncle Jim and landed on the steps of the entrance with just a few wet droplets on my coat and braid.  We waited impatiently for a highly distracted ticket checker before rebelliously slipping past him unchecked, and Jim led me into the new wing.  It smelled like art and rain in the hallways.

Through Alex Katz we wandered and up multiple floors.  By the time we reached the final section, we were tired and on Art Overload, but Jim said we couldn’t leave yet.  “I want you to see the Sargents…if they’re still here.”

As is my custom to first choose a path through a gallery, I entered and looked to either side of the room.  Immediately, one painting in particular drew me toward it.  The third one in on the right, bordered with an ornately carved golden wood frame, and the foreground to a silver-blue damask wallpaper with velvety texture – A Capriote by John Singer Sargent.

The wall description read:

In 1878 Sargent traveled to the Italian island of Capri, in search of exotic scenery.  Many of the works he produced there featured local model Rosina Ferrara, who was admired for her blue-black hair and olive skin.  Here, Ferrara stands in an olive grove.  Her arms are twined around a tree, echoing its twisted shape.  By using this contrived pose and depicting his model’s striking features in profile, Sargent made her seem an integral and sensual part of the landscape.

Sargent was born to American parents in 1856 Florence, Italy, and lived most of his life and successful artistic career among European aristocracy.  He is said to be one of the greatest portrait artists in the world.

When he was still living in Paris, Sargent wanted to paint Madame Pierre Gautreau despite not having been commissioned.  He was able to convince her upon gaining an introduction and completed Madame X in 1884.  Apparently, a dress strap slipped over the shoulder was too erotic for the times and the painting succeeded in stirring up scandal among conservative critics.  Sargent moved to London shortly afterward and would live there for the rest of his life.  More than twenty years later the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased Madame X.  Sargent wrote to Director Edward Robinson, “I suppose it is the best thing I have done.”

I fell in love with the luminance of A Capriote, with the softness of its strokes, the twinkle in her eye.  If I could paint like John Singer Sargent…

His techniques as an artist allowed him to reach greatness.  He always sketched his subjects with pencil or watercolor first, over and over, learning the light, perfecting the composition, before beginning with oils.  He painted almost purely from life.  He would constantly step away from his easel to view subject and canvas simultaneously in the same light, the same line of sight, and the same distance.  He depicted the structure of an image first, acurately arranging “big masses, angles, and prominent planes” before focusing on small details.  He used plenty of paint and thick, confident strokes.  He painted middle-tones first and the highest lights and darkest darks last.  He was a tough self-critic and objective observer.  He learned from old Masters.


Connie Nelson

Art Renewal

The morning began misty gray with a chilly breeze through the window. When I finally roll out of bed, Joni tells me, “I’m making scones!” I blink and the dough is rolled and in the oven.
It’s been at least two years since I’ve walked the Museum of Fine Arts and when we arrive, Jim and I head right into the newest wing. The modern and colorful portraits and landscapes of Alex Katz are on display. Another new artist to grow fond of.

My uncle attempts to explain Katz’s method but it is hard to visualize until I come upon a display of his process and some tools involved in this type of art. He paints from life so the original images naturally have hundreds of tones. Katz’s job is reducing the information down to three or four colors while still maintaining the energy. Layers of a drawing are carved into plates made out of materials like wood as mirror images, the plates are painted and stamped onto paper. One layer might be clouds and tree trunks while the next is leaves and grass. It’s quite amazing, really, given the grandiose size of some of his works.

I grow light and happy admiring this little girl and her drawing book. I hope she never quits.
After Katz, the rest of the American art awaits our viewing.






Jim is ready to leave but he says I need to see the John Singer Sargent work first. It must be fate because in under four seconds upon entering the room, I am drawn toward my new favorite work, A Capriote. Notice it’s the same girl in the next painting.




And on the walk home, a stop at whole foods to find vegetables for our rib dinner…and funny faces.