Monday, November 4, 2019

John Singer Sargent Drawings at The Morgan Library & Museum

John Singer Sargent double self-portrait from 1902 when Sargent was 46.

   The Morgan Library and Museum, originally built by financier J.P. Morgan in 1906, is one of my favorite places in New York, and now it's featuring on exhibition on one of my favorite artists – what's not to like?
    I admire the refinement of John Singer Sargent's art, and the Morgan has mounted a show of  his charcoal drawings. But this isn't just a bunch of drawings!
     Sargent is of course famous for his large portrait paintings, like the striking Madame X and the gorgeous Wyndham sisters, which both can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But by 1907, Sargent had grown tired of producing these large, elaborate paintings, which could require up to more than ten sittings with the model(s). His portraits were still in demand however, so he turned to charcoal drawings, which were quicker and more spontaneous.
    For the first time ever, this show at The Morgan focuses on Sargent's charcoal drawings and gathers together 55 examples, some of which have never been exhibited before as they are in private collections. Walking through the gallery, I enjoyed the easy, breezy nature of the drawings. They seemed so fresh and spontaneous, almost like photographs capturing the subject, instead of the studied grandeur of Sargent's oil portraits. And though of course I'm sure they weren't, they appear to be effortless. The drawings possess that combination of ease and elegance that I love.
    At the top of this post is a double self-portrait by Sargent, who rarely produced a self-portrait. Good-looking chap.
      Here we have Sybil Sassoon from 1912. Sargent said she was the most beautiful woman he ever drew –

    This is Sargent's friend artist Paul-César Helleu – I like his charcoal grey clothes and his casual, relaxed posture as he reclines in a low armchair.

    Handsome Italian model Olimpio Fusco looks like he just stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue -

    I was so happy to see one of my favorite portraits of all time -- Sargent's drawing of Irish poet William Butler Yeats –

    I love everything about this portrait, including the floppy bow tie and shawl-colored jacket. Yeats is from Sligo, Ireland, which is where my great-grandfather Daniel O'Donnell hailed from before he landed in Herkimer, New York. Yeats wrote the most beautiful poem about Sligo called "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." I hope to get to Sligo some day. In the meantime, I recommend a trip to The Morgan to see John Singer Sargent. 

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