Boston’s illustrious history with John Singer Sargent and fashion takes center stage in a new exhibition starting October 8th, 2023 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
John Singer Sargent’s Portraits: Sargent was a highly skilled portrait artist known for his elegant and lifelike depictions of his sitters. He paid meticulous attention to the details of the fabric and clothing in his subjects’ attire, rendering them in sensuous strokes of paint.
Sargent’s Influence on Dress: Sargent didn’t just passively record what his sitters wore; he often had a say in their clothing choices. Even if sitters arrived in the latest fashions, he frequently simplified or altered the details, emphasizing his role in shaping their appearance.
Exploiting Dress as Artistry: The manipulation of dress and fashion was an integral part of Sargent’s artistic practice. It allowed him to express distinctive personalities, social positions, professions, gender identities, and nationalities in his portraits.
Exhibition Details: The exhibition “Fashioned by Sargent” is organized in collaboration with Tate Britain. It delves into Sargent’s complex relationship with his often-affluent clients and their clothing choices. The exhibition examines how he used clothing to shape his sitters’ images and reveals the liberties he took with their sartorial choices.
Artistic Power: The exhibition highlights Sargent’s artistic power in shaping his subjects’ images, emphasizing how he used clothing to convey various aspects of their identity and social standing.
Paintings and Garments: The exhibition features around 50 paintings by Sargent, alongside over a dozen period garments and accessories. These artifacts shed new light on the connection between fashion and Sargent’s creative process. Visitors can see both the paintings and the actual garments worn by the sitters, enhancing the understanding of how dress was used in his work.
Notable Portraits: The exhibition showcases notable portraits by Sargent, including Graham Robertson’s portrait, Madame X, Lady Agnew, and Dr. Pozzi at Home. Visitors can explore the connection between these iconic works and the clothing choices made by the sitters.
Ellen Terry and Mrs. Charles Inches: The exhibition specifically mentions Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, wearing a beetle-wing-encrusted costume, and Mrs. Charles Inches (Louise Pomeroy) in her red velvet evening gown. These examples further illustrate how dress played a role in Sargent’s art.
Sargent’s Perspective on Dress: Sargent’s own perspective on dress is highlighted through a quote: “The coat is the picture,” indicating the importance of clothing in his work.
Image Curation and Control: The exhibition invites visitors to consider the process of curating and controlling one’s image, emphasizing how Sargent’s manipulation of dress played a significant role in this process.
To take a journey through the fashion of John Singer Sargent visit the MFA Boston now through January 15th, 2024.