Puslapio vaizdai

orist of restrained strength and comprehensive breadth of scale. The central figure of the group, on his knees, like his companions, but with his arms uplifted, and his face raised to Jehovah, while the other heads are bowed, is a fine piece of painting, simply conceived and as simply wrought. Its place in the group, and the contrasting attitudes of its fellows, not subordinated, but helping to show the idea expressed by this one for all,-the wail of agony and supplication from the twelve tribes of Israel, who have forgotten their God and worshiped the idols of the heathen, and now, with his altar-fire rekindled, turn to implore his mercy and protection, constitute one of the best illustrations in modern art of a subject interpreted in the plain language of painting, which may not transgress the laws of truth to nature.

The color-scheme of the frieze, as has been said, serves well its purpose in the ensemble of the decoration. The figures of the prophets, taken separately, present some fine characterizations, and in painting them, the composition having been determined, the artist has had a task difficult enough to cause him to exert his best powers, but uncomplicated by the archaic considerations in the lunette and the ceiling. Particularly worthy of note is the management of the strong reds in the figures of Joshua and Elijah, on each side of the Moses, and the intermingling of reddish tints with the gold in the garment and wings that envelop this commanding figure. Not less effective is the strong note given by the blue robe of Isaiah on the right, and those of blue and brown in the group of Zephaniah and Joel on the side wall at the left. Through these, and the prevailing white and neutral tints of the garments in the other groups, there is a fine play of color, subdued in just proportion to meet the requirements of the position of the frieze.



THE high reputation of John Singer Sargent, the painter of this remarkable work, makes him one of the most prominent figures in the modern world of art. No American artist has occupied such an exalted position as he has attained before reaching his fortieth year; none is more celebrated in Paris, London, and the other art centers of Europe. He has painted some of his best portraits in the United States, and «La Carmencita,» the picture which represents him in the famous Luxembourg Gallery in Paris, was painted in



New York, and first publicly shown at the exhibition of the Society of American Artists. His career has been a cosmopolitan one, and his youth was passed among surroundings very different from those that affect the intellectual bent of most American boys who become painters and sculptors. He was born in Florence, Italy, in 1856, whither his parents had gone to live some years before. His father was Dr. Fitz-Hugh Sargent, a Boston physiciap, and his mother, whose maiden name was Newbold, and who belonged to a well-known family of Philadelphia, possessed the accomplishment of painting very cleverly in watercolors. Educated partly in Italy and partly in Germany, young Sargent entered the Academy of Fine Arts at Florence at a comparatively early age, and before he was eighteen had spent several years in art study. He learned to paint in water-colors, as well as to draw with the pencil or charcoal, and one summer, when he was in the Tyrol with his mother, Frederick Leighton, not yet a peer and president of the Royal Academy, but a famous English artist notwithstanding, meeting them, commended the boy's work, and counseled him to continue. His advent a year or two later in the studio of the pupils of Carolus Duran is thus described by Sargent's intimate



friend and fellow-student in Paris, the wellknown portrait-painter, Carroll Beckwith:

It was on a Tuesday or Friday, the days when Carolus came to criticize our work, in the spring of 1874, at the old studio on the Boulevard du Mont-Parnasse. I had a place near the door, and when I heard a knock I turned to open it. There stood a gray-haired gentleman, accompanied by a tall, rather lank youth, who carried a portfolio under his arm, and I guessed that he must be a coming nouveau. The gentleman addressed me politely in French, and I replied in the same language, but with less fluency, for I had not been long in Paris myself, telling him that the «patron» was in the studio at the moment, and asking him if they would wait. He evidently saw that I was a fellow countryman, for he then spoke in English, and we held a short conversation in subdued tones; for the school etiquette of course forbade talking while the patron was within the walls. At any other time the visitors might have had a more demonstrative reception. Carolus soon finished his criticism, and I presented my compatriots. Sargent's father explained that he had brought his son to the studio that he might become a pupil; the portfolio was laid on the floor, and the drawings were spread out. We all crowded about to look, and Carolus spoke favorably. He told the young artist that he might enter his class, and when he had departed we all crowded about again to look more closely at the drawings. We were astonished at the cleverness shown in the watercolor and pencil work, and his début was considered a most promising one. He made rapid progress from the day he entered the school, and gradually rose to perfection in academic study.

The serious and earnest side of Sargent's character always impressed his fellow-students in those Latin Quarter days. He had no taste for dissipation, though he was by no

means puritanical. The lighter side of his temperament found satisfaction in music, the theater, and literature, and in the keen appreciation of everything in the tastes and amusements of the day that had a new or original flavor. Though an eager reader, he was not a bookman, but an observer. «Alert» is the adjective which perhaps best expresses the quality of his predominating characteristic. He was quick to see, and ready to absorb, everything that struck him as novel.

I remember how much we used to like to go to the Colonne concerts at the Châtelet, and to those given by Maître Pasdeloup at the Cirque d'Hiver, on Sunday afternoons. Some of us had heard Berlioz's « Damnation de Faust>> at the former place fifteen or sixteen times. Sargent, who dearly loved the music, was struck by theodd picturesqueness of the orchestra at Pasdeloup's, seen in the middle of the amphitheater, the musicians' figures foreshortened from the high point of view on the rising benches, the necks of the bass-viols sticking up above their heads, the white sheets of music illuminated by little lamps on the racks, and the violin-bows moving in unison. While he listened he looked, and one day he took a canvas and painted his impression. He made an effective picture of it, broad, and full of color. Sargent's musical perceptions should be particularly mentioned in an analysis of his temperament, for they are very keen, and his knowledge of good music and his love of it are strong factors in his personality. Another strong temperamental trait is his susceptibility to the impress of race characteristics. He has shown this in the eager grasp of the picturesque, not only in foreign lands, but whenever he met with anything markedly racial in subject for a picture at home. His large canvas, «El Jaleo,» a woman dancing, with a company of Spanish singers and time-makers behind her, and the studies he made of the Javanese dancing-girls at the Paris Exposition of 1889, are among the tangible results of this tendency. Besides his native language, he speaks and writes French, Italian, and German.

Sargent's studio is always a sociable place. Unlike many artists, the presence of visitors or companions does not disturb him when he is painting. He seems to work without obvious exertion even in his intensest activity. «When his models are resting, he fills up the gap by strumming on the piano or guitar,» says one of his friends; «his manner while at work is that of a man of consummate address, and does not show physical or mental effort.» He

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small][subsumed]

knows thoroughly well what he is about and what his capabilities are, so that, while he searches the truth in his pictorial rendering of what is before him, and often repaints a part of his picture entirely in the effort to make it as perfect as possible, he works with confidence. He has never been allied with any revolutionary movements in art, and, while novelty appeals to him in things seen, he shuns all passing crazes or new doctrines. His feeling in art is of the most intense sort. Skill and accomplishment in every field excite his admiration, but his own creed is stable and unaffected by transitory influences. Possibly, in his youthful days, when he made pencil drawings from the heroic figures in the great canvases by Tintoretto, Titian, and Paul Veronese in Venice and Florence, and drew them again from memory to show his comrades in Paris the grandeur of line in these compositions which had so deeply stirred him, he laid the foundations of this stability. This quality has been of much benefit to him. Confronted by one difficult artistic problem after another, he has presented in every case solutions which, though sometimes more complete and more brilliant than others, have been uniformly sound-audacious sometimes, but always sane. «En Route pour La Pêche » was the title of a picture of modest dimensions signed by John S. Sargent, and exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1878. It represented fisher-girls at Cancale, setting out for their work with their baskets under their arms, and was bright and pleasing in color. It bore a look of cleverness that was unmistakable, but it was no more remarkable than the first picture of many another young painter of right education. In the same year, in the American gallery of the Universal Exposition, Mr. Sargent showed a competent, well-drawn portrait of a lady. At the Salon of 1879 appeared a charming little picture of a young girl among the olive-trees at Capri, and a portrait of Carolus Duran. The latter canvas at once attracted attention, and the jury of award voted an honorable mention to the painter. In 1880 came the «Smoke of Ambergris,» already mentioned, and a portrait of Mme. Pailleron, wife of the celebrated author of « Le monde où l'on s'ennuie.» In 1881 there were two portraits of young ladies, and these were of such merit that the jury decreed a medal of the second class, and so placed the artist hors concours. In these successive exhibits there was ample proof of artistic ability, and increasing evidence of individuality of style. In 1882 « El Jaleo,» which is now in the possession of a gentleman in Boston, and

the portrait of Miss Louise Burckhardt, which together made Sargent's Salon «exhibition,»>< drew so much notice that his reputation took on a quality of generally admitted excellence, and his work was considered of such distinction that he was in a fair way to become, if he had not already become, a portraitpainter of fashion in Paris. About this time the studio in the Rue Notre Dame des Champs was given up, and a new and larger one taken on the Boulevard Berthier, on the north bank of the Seine. At the Salon of 1883 a very large canvas, called «Portraits of Children,>> in which four little girls were depicted in a spacious hall, evoked high praise from critics and public, more than ever confirming the opinion that Sargent's work possessed the highest sort of qualities, and that he was destined to become a great figure in modern art. In the summer of the same year at her country place at Houlgate he painted the portrait of Mme. Gauthereau, a celebrated Parisian beauty, and exhibited it at the Salon the following spring. It aroused a storm of disapproval. Mme. Gauthereau is painted fulllength, in a ball gown of black, the head turned in profile to our view, and, judged merely from a reproduction, the picture is seen to be one of exquisite style. It is certainly masterly in line and general disposition; that much may be seen from a photograph. Painters who have seen the picture speak of its marvelous technical qualities, and of the sensitive drawing of the head. Some of Sargent's friends speak of it as his masterpiece, and others declare that he himself so considers it. But it was severely criticized. The admirers of Mme. Gauthereau talked in the salons and clubs of the extremely poetic type of her beauty, and of the realistic rendering of externals only that this portrait, in their opinion, presented. There was an uproar about it, in fact, and most of the critics took the side of her partizans. The great artistic merits of the work were almost entirely overlooked. That spring Sargent went to London to execute some commissions for portraits, and events have so shaped themselves in his career that he has never since had a studio in Paris.

The village of Broadway, England, is about twelve miles south of Stratford. In 1885 Sargent and other artists were spending the summer there, and their days passed pleasantly with tennis and cricket in their leisure hours. Every day an hour before the sun went down there was commotion in the little colony, for with the last rays came the time when the effect was on for

« AnkstesnisTęsti »