|Gassed (1919) by John Singer Sargent|
SARGENT AS WAR ARTIST
By Richard Carreño
[WC News Service]
Like many laymen, I've always thought of John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) as a Society portraitist. A trenchant -- even oftentimes, an unforgiving filter of the genre -- to be sure. The 'scandalous' full-figured Portrait Madame X attests to that. For the most part, though, Sargent's softer side, summed up in the fan-favourite Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, elicits the most raves.
This is the Sargent that most viewers have known and loved. And the one that gets reinforced in one Sargent show after another. Most notably, for me, it was the blockbuster Sargent retrospective I went to see in 1999 at the Tate (it was rebranded Tate Britain only later). Comprehensive? Really?
Well, I didn't see Sargent's pencil and charcoal drawings and sketches. His landscapes and seascapes? I got up close and personal with these only some years later at the former Corcoran in Washington.
As for his tour de force, Gassed (1919), currently doing a star turn at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, I had to go to the Imperial War Museum for that experience. Step forward, John Singer Sargent as war artist. Who knew?