John Singer Sargent was the preeminent portraitist of the Gilded Age. With his brilliant bravura brushwork, flair for rich colors, and dramatic juxtaposition of light and dark tones, he made striking images of the American and European elite. Born to American parents in Italy, Sargent spent most of his life in Europe, where he traveled extensively, studying the work of the Old Masters. He greatly admired Diego Velázquez’s realism and Frans Hals’s painterly brush strokes, both of which he would incorporate into his own work. Sargent painted this portrait of Lady Helen Vincent in Venice. A glimpse of the Grand Canal is visible through the balustrade in the lower-left corner. He elongates Lady Helen’s limbs, underscoring her gracefulness, while the black dress emphasizes her milk-white skin, a sign of her nobility. Her direct but pensive gaze suggests her intellect: she was a member of The Souls, a salon of prominent intellectuals that included Henry James and Edith Wharton.
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- Titles Portrait of Lady Helen Vincent (1866-1954) (Label Display)
- Artist John Singer Sargent, American, 1856 - 1925
- Medium oil on canvas
- Dimensions 62 1/2 x 42 1/2 in. (158.8 x 108 cm) frame: 72 7/8 × 52 1/4 × 5 in. (185.1 × 132.7 × 12.7 cm)
- Credit Line Museum purchase with funds provided by John Bohorfoush, the 1984 Museum Dinner and Ball, and the Museum Store, 1984.121
- Work Type painting
- Classification Paintings
- On View
- Provenance Commissioned by Edgar Vincent, 1st Viscount D’Abernon (1857-1941); inherited by his widow and the sitter, Helen Vincent, Viscountess D’Abernon (1866-1954); inherited by her nephew, Sir Fergus Graham, 5th Baronet (1893-1978); inherited by his son, Sir Charles Graham, 6th Baronet; auctioned at Important American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Christie’s, New York, June 1, 1984, lot 187; purchased through Coe Kerr Gallery, New York as agent of the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, Alabama, 1984