John Singer Sargent was born on this day 160 years ago, in Florence, Italy -- 12 January 1856. Over the course of the next 75 years until his death in 1925, he drew, sketched, coloured and painted some
900 oil paintings and 2,000 watercolours! He was a prodigious, fast and exceptionally skilled artistic genius, and over the last two decades or so, his star has been rising again -- thanks for the most part to his great-great-nephew Richard Ormond, who has been instrumental in providing the world with the Catalog Raisonne of Sargent's works. Ormond was also the leading light behind the magnificent exhibition "Sargent and His Friends" that recently showed at the NY Met Museum, and previous to that, in London at the National Gallery.
I have been in love with Sargent and his work since 1999, when I saw my first exhibition of his work at the Washington D.C. National Gallery. It was there and then that I vowed I would write a novel about this artist, and in particular, his amazing "Portraits d'Enfants", also known as the Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.
Much later, I was to learn that my very favorite author, Henry James, was an intimate friend and patron of Sargent, and my literary sights were set -- my novel Portraits of an Artist -- has three scenes with Henry James in them! (N.B. Henry James died in 1916, so this year is a huge year for all sorts of Jamesian gatherings around the world.)
Happy Birthday, John Singer Sargent!