21er Haus · Abstract Expressionism · Advice · Aesthetics · Africa · African American · Ai Weiwei · Albrecht Dürer · Alcohol · Ali Cavanaugh · Amazon · Amsterdam · Andy Warhol · Animals · Animation · Antiquity · Apartheid · Archaeology · Architecture · Art History · Art installation · Art Market · Art nouveau · Art per se · Art Pharmacy · Art project · Art reception · Art Stage · Artemisia Gentileschi · Artist Project · Artist reunion · Artists about Art · Asad Raza · Asia · Astronomy · Atelier · Auction · Australia · Authenticity · Bach · Banksy · Barcelona · Baroque · Battle of the Sexes · Beauty · Belgium · Ben Enwonwu · Benin · Berlin · Bernini · Biennale · Bike · Bill Traylor · Biography · Biology · Border Film Project · Border-crossing · British Museum · Bronze · Budapest · Butterfly · Cameroon · Campbell’s Soup · Canada · Caravaggio · Cartoon · Cat · Charles Edward Perugini · Charles François Daubigny · Charts · Chicago · Children · China · Christian Art · Christianity · Cinema · City · Cityscape · Climate · Cloth · Clothes · Collection · Colours · Comic · Community · Construction · Consumption · Contemporary Art · Contemporary History · Count Ibex Collection · Countrysite · Cowboys · Craft · Crafting · Cuban Art · Customize · Damien Hirst · Danny Lyon · Darkness · David Eichenberg · David Hockney · Death · Debate · Deception · Decoration · Design · Destination · Detroit · Diego Rivera · Digi-Arts · Dimension · Diorama · Discrimination · Discussion · DNA · Dog · Domestic space · Drawing · Earthquake · Edmund Charles Tarbell · Education · Edward Hopper · Edwynn Houk Gallery · Egypt · Electricity · Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun · Emotions · Erasure · Ernest Lawson · Ernest Mancoba · Erwin Blumenfeld · Ethic · Ethnology · Eugène Delacroix · Eva Lewarne · Events · Exhibition · Experiment · Fake · Family · Fashion · Featured Artist · Feminism · Figurative Art · Film · Fire · Food · Form · France · Frankfurt · Frederick Goodall · French art · Frida Kahlo · Friendship · Furniture · Futurism · Gallery · Games · Garden · Geometry · George Sand · Gerard David · Gerhard Richter · Germany · Getty · Ghana · Ghosts · Gifts · Giotto · Giovanni Bellini (Giambellino) · Glass · Goethe · Gold · Good Idea · Gothic · Goya · Graffiti · Halcyon Gallery · Handcraft · Hans von Aachen · Harlem · Health · History · Horoscope · Huang Binhong · Hungarian National Gallery · Hyperrealism · Ibrahim El Salahi · Identity · Illustration · Imagination · Impressionism · India · Individuum · Indonesia · Interieur · Internet · Interview · Iran · Israel · Italy · Ivory · Ivory Coast · Jan van Scorel · Japan · Jasper Johns · Jaume Huguet · Jean Paul Gaultier · Jean-François Baudet · Jeff Koons · Jerusalem · JMW Turner · Joachim Patinir · Johannes Vermeer · John Singer Sargent · Joseph Karl Stieler · Journey · Jules Breton · Kaari Upson · Karel Appel · Karl Lagerfeld · Katsushika Hokusai · Kerry James Marshall · Keto · Kurt Hüpfner · Landscape · Latin America · Leasure · Leonardo da Vinci · Lifestyle · Lili Ország · Lisbon · Literature · London · Lorena Kloosterboer · Lorenzo Lotto · Los Angeles · Louver Gallery · Louvre · Love · Luck · Macchiavelli · Madrid · Magic · Malangatana · Malick Sidibé · Map · Marble · Marcel Duchamp · Marco Grassi · Maria Lassnig · Martha Pulina · Mary Stevenson Cassatt · Masterpiece Project · Material Culture · Matisse · Matthew Cherry · Max Friedländer · MC Escher · MEAM · Mexican Art · Miami · Michelangelo · Middle Ages · Mies van der Rohe · Minimalism · Mining · Mitch Griffiths · Mixed Media · Mobility · Modern Art · Mona Lisa · Moon · Morto da Feltre · Mosaic · Mozambique · Mulan Gallery · Munich · Murillo · Muse · Museum · Music · Mythology · Nathan Zhou · Native Americans · Nature · Neoclassic · Netherlands · New York · Nigeria · Norway · Nudity · Object · Oil paintings · Old masters · Orientalism · Osman Hamdi Bey · Pablo Picasso · Palestine · Paper · Paris · Pattern · Peace of paper · Pen and Ink · Pencil · Perspective · Peter Lindbergh · Philadelphia · Philipp Weber · Philosophy · Photographs · Photography · Places · Poetry · Poland · Politics · Pop Art · Porcelain · Portrait · Poster · Pottery · Power · Prado Museum · Prague · Presents · Printing · Protest · Psychology · Rainforest · Ramon Pichot · Raphael · Reading · Realism · Recycling · Religion · Renaissance · René Jules Lalique · René Magritte · Restauration · Review · Rings · Robert Rauschenberg · Roccoco · Roger Kemp · Romanticism · Rome · Rosa JH Berland · Royal Academy of Arts · Ruins · Russia · Rybolovlev · SAAM · Saatchi Gallery · Salvador Dali · Sappho · School · Science · Science Fiction · Sculpture · Seattle · Self-expression · Selfie · Sensation · Seoul · Sexuality · Shadow · Shakespeare · Shana Levenson · Shanghai · Shchukin · Sheryl Luxenburg · Show · Shuang Li · Singapore · Sketch · Slavery · Social Media · Society · Sophie Matisse · Sound · South Africa · Space · Spirituality · Sport · Spray painting · Städel Museum · Star Wars · State Hermitage Museum · Statistic · Still Life · Street Art · Strings · Surrealism · Surveillance · Sweden · Symmetry · Tanzania · Tate Britain · Tattoo · Technology · Temple · Textiles · The Metropolitan Museum of Art · The National Gallery · Theatre · Time · Tina Turner · Tips · Titian · Tom Watt · Tommy Hartung · Toronto · Townscape · TRAC · Travel · Turkey · UK · Underground · United Kingdom · United States · Urban Art · Urbanism · Valentin de Boulogne · Venice · Venus · Veronese · Vienna · Vincent Van Gogh · Voodoo · War · Warsaw · Washington D.C. · Water · Watercolor · Whitney Museum · Wild West · Women · World Culture Forum · World Press Freedom Day · Yoan Capote · Zhou B Art Center
 

The Face of the Madonna and the Eyes of a Child

On Sargent's "Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler"

John Singer Sargent, Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler (Mrs. John Jay Chapman), 1893, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Chanler A. Chapman, 1980.71

Set against a russet wall in a second-floor gallery, John Singer Sargent’s Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler gazes out at passersby, her stare by turns fixed and inescapable. Elegantly attired, Chanler glows in a sumptuous, leg of mutton-sleeved dress; her clasped hands pin down two brocade cushions. The work, a symphony of solid and billowing forms, reveals as much about its enigmatic sitter as it does its reserved artist.

Chanler, who, in Sargent’s encapsulation, had “the face of the Madonna and the eyes of a child,” sat for her portrait in London, which the twenty-six-year-old New Yorker was visiting for her brother’s wedding. Elizabeth, who lost her mother as a child, was, from an early age, left to help care for her seven siblings, a strength of will suggested in her probing, somber gaze. In Sargent’s hands, this counterbalance between young and old, curious and remote, is conveyed in the clean lines of the gilt sofa back—an order that gives way to loose blushes of color in the richly layered cushions and dress skirt below.

For all his deftness in capturing the likeness of Chanler and others, though, Sargent surely had his detractors. Of the criticisms leveled against him, one common refrain tended to his sitters, themselves emblems of the highest echelons of society. In his essay “Me, Them, and You,” writer E. M. Forster said of a London exhibition of Sargent portraits, “Gazing at each other over our heads, [the sitters] said, ‘What would the country do without us? We have got the decorations and the pearls…we have the largest houses and eat the best food…and ours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory.’” Sargent’s success owed much to these portraits of society’s sophisticates, to be sure, but to reduce his works as elitist misses the artistic sensibility that is Sargent’s. His portraits, laden as they are with metaphor, are not mere snapshots of a class out of reach. Rather, they are character studies, carefully calibrated compositions of the human psyche—compositions that express, as only he can, the intricacies of a sitter’s personality in subtleties as deliberate and delicate as a pair of clasped hands.

On a recent afternoon in the galleries, a woman is sitting in a bench opposite Chanler’s portrait, rapt in a silent dialogue all her own. Others approach the work, taking a minute to read the label before standing a few steps back, eyes affixed on Chanler’s. This afternoon, the portrait evokes a kind of mystifying majesty, its stark coloring playing off the surrounding scarlet walls. In a gallery across the way, some visitors breeze by without paying the portrait any mind. But, of those who do catch Chanler’s eye, even those in a hurry to see another room, stop, if momentarily, to exchange with her a glance or two, as if to let the sitter search or, at the very least, acknowledge, them.

back to start/overview

Unable to display Facebook posts.
Show error

Error: Error validating application. Application has been deleted.
Type: OAuthException
Code: 190
Please refer to our Error Message Reference.