“Seductive,” “flamboyant,” and “deeply revealing” are the words used by this esteemed museum to describe the incredible family portraits executed by this well-known master. Who is he, and where can you catch a glimpse?

John Singer Sargent is, with little question, one of the greatest portraitists in art history. His ability to capture the subtleties of an individual’s dress and visage — revealing their character and so much more — is largely unparalleled.

A group of magnificent portraits by Sargent are currently on view through February 5 at the Jewish Museum in New York City. Fittingly, the portraits surround a prominent Jewish family during the Victorian era in England — the Meyers.

John Singer Sargent, “Mrs. Carl Meyer and her Children,” 1896, oil on canvas, (c) Tate Britain, London 2017
John Singer Sargent, “Mrs. Carl Meyer and her Children,” 1896, oil on canvas, (c) Tate Britain, London 2017

Painted in 1896, “Mrs. Carl Meyer and her Children” was met with vexed reviews upon its initial exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1897 — some loved the masterpiece, while others were skeptical. Harper’s Weekly critic Henry James wrote, “Of these elements Mr. Sargent has made a picture of a knock-down insolence of talent and truth of characterization, a wonderful rendering of life, of manners, of aspects, of types, of textures, of everything.”

Indeed, the family portrait is a tour de force of creative and artistic genius. The museum reports, “As a society hostess known for her exuberant soirées, enchanting voice, and support of the arts, Lady Meyer was also a socially concerned philanthropist supporting working class women, underprivileged families, and women’s suffrage. On loan from the Tate Britain in London, it has been over 10 years since this painting was on view in the United States. The exhibition highlights this remarkable work — contextualizing it with other family portraits, family photographs, personal correspondence and domestic memorabilia, as well as satirical imagery from popular culture that relates to both the Meyer family and John Singer Sargent.”

To learn more, visit the Jewish Museum.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.


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