Jennifer Spiers illustrated talk on John Singer Sargent in Ansford on the 19th of October kept us all absolutely gripped by what she had to show us. As Hendrika Foster said to me at the end of the talk, what Jennifer gave us was essentially an artist’s view of Sargent. I thought that got it right for Jennifer showed such sensitivity and appreciation of his quite exceptional abilities in drawing and painting, in watercolour and oils. This she was able to demonstrate to us in dazzling detail thanks to the wonders of Powerpoint. This meant she moved from showing us a whole painting to focusing on it in detail, going to a hand or a face, and blowing it up so every brush-stroke was visible. That really exposed his accomplishment for he had the eye and the knack to place with consummate ease a brushstroke of exactly the right colour, tone and texture in just the right place – something every artist aspires to do, but which so few can really achieve without a lot of reworking.
Of course she told us about his life, growing up a privileged young man in Italy and Paris and of his growing commercial success as a portrait painter for society figures and those who aspired to be accepted as society figures in his day. What she also pointed out was what an enormously prolific artist he was, how he was driven to paint – leaving behind some 4,000 watercolours as well as a huge range of oil paintings besides his commercially successful portraits. For anyone who wishes these can now ALL be seen on line at http://www.johnsingersargent.org/the-complete-works.html. This American website is quite brilliant with an excellent write up about him.
We had a very good turnout and were well provided with drinks and nibbles by a hard-working team, making for a memorable evening.