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Big Daddy

Linda Nochlin

30 October 1997
American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America 
by Robert Hughes.
Harvill, 635 pp., £35, October 1997, 9781860463723
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... and traditional modes of expression are common to both. In the case of Robert Hughes, author of the monumental American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America, the artist of choice would be JohnSingerSargent, brilliant pictorial chronicler of the beau monde of the 19th century. Like Sargent, Hughes is a brilliant crowd-dazzler and populariser; like Sargent, he is unadventurous in his ...

Plucking the Fruits of Knowledge

Linda Nochlin: The Surprising Boldness of Mary Cassatt

15 April 1999
Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman 
edited by Judith Barter.
Abrams, 376 pp., £40, November 1998, 0 8109 4089 2
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Mary Cassatt: Painter of Modern Women 
by Griselda Pollock.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £7.95, September 1998, 0 500 20317 2
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... first cousin once removed. The sitter rejected it, apparently feeling that it did not do justice to her reputation as a great beauty. Certainly, it is not a flattering portrait, of the kind that JohnSingerSargent was producing for a satisfied clientèle. If we compare it to a slightly later Sargent portrait – Lady Agnew, for example – we find the pose of Cassatt’s subject far more rigid ...

She’s a tiger-cat!

Miranda Seymour: Birds’ claw omelettes with Vernon Lee

22 January 2004
Vernon Lee: A Literary Biography 
by Vineta Colby.
Virginia, 387 pp., £32.50, May 2003, 0 8139 2158 9
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... own education on to his young half-sister. For the most part, however, she was left to her own devices. Henry James’s story ‘The Pupil’ was partly based on the unsettled childhood of his friend JohnSingerSargent, but he might as well have been describing Violet Paget’s youth. It was Mrs Sargent, encountered when Violet was ten, who became the first of a series of surrogate mothers willing to ...

Maisie’s Sisters

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Sargent’s Daughters

5 August 2010
Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of a Painting 
by Erica Hirshler.
MFA, 262 pp., £23.95, October 2009, 978 0 87846 742 6
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... JohnSingerSargent has often been accused of lacking a soul. Even Henry James, who helped introduce him to the London scene in the 1880s and continued to promote his work, worried that he suffered from a ‘sort of ...

Feast of Darks

Christine Stansell: Whistler

23 October 2003
Whistler, Women and Fashion 
by Margaret MacDonald and Susan Grace Galassi et al.
Yale, 243 pp., £35, May 2003, 0 300 09906 1
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Whistler and His Mother: An Unexpected Relationship 
by Sarah Walden.
Gibson Square, 242 pp., £15.99, July 2003, 1 903933 28 5
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... century later, we have seen so many variations of the artist as showman that Whistler’s antics seem merely quaint. His legacy hasn’t worn well. Compared with his closest American contemporaries, JohnSingerSargent (also working in England), Thomas Eakins (determinedly homebound) and Mary Cassatt (moving between France and America), Whistler seems lightweight. He possessed neither Sargent’s ...

His Own Private Armenia

Anne Hollander: Arshile Gorky

1 April 2004
Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work 
by Hayden Herrera.
Bloomsbury, 767 pp., £35, October 2003, 9780747566472
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Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings 
edited by Janie Lee and Melvin Lader.
Abrams, 272 pp., £30, December 2003, 0 87427 135 5
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... of the century New York. Like those earlier Americans, they wanted to make the point that their themes were indigenous, not borrowed from the Old World. At the turn of the century, on the other hand, JohnSingerSargent had been a transatlantically renowned American painter with avowedly European artistic roots. Gorky admired his work – he even claimed to possess one of Sargent’s brushes – and ...

Flowers in His Trousers

Christopher Benfey: Central Park’s Architect

5 October 2016
Frederick Law Olmsted: Writings on Landscape, Culture and Society 
edited by Charles E. Beveridge.
Library of America, 802 pp., £30, November 2015, 978 1 59853 452 8
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... he determined to become a gentleman farmer, and observed several progressive farmers before acquiring, with help from his father, his own farm on Staten Island. He visited his younger brother, John, at Yale, making friends with some of his high-minded circle, including Charles Loring Brace, who later founded the Children’s Aid Society. Brace and the Olmsted brothers travelled to Europe in ...

Cubist Slugs

Patrick Wright: The Art of Camouflage

23 June 2005
DPM: Disruptive Pattern Material; An Encyclopedia of Camouflage: Nature – Military – Culture 
DPM, 2 vols, 944 pp., £100, September 2004, 9780954340407Show More
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... garment for snipers. Thayer, who was suffering from nervous tension at the time and was probably also fed up with being mocked and derided, pulled out of the meeting at short notice, leaving JohnSingerSargent to attend on his own. The British generals are said to have been horrified when Sargent opened Thayer’s valise. According to Richard Murray of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the ...

Not the Brightest of the Barings

Bernard Porter: Lord Cromer, a Victorian Ornamentalist in Egypt

18 November 2004
Lord Cromer: Victorian Imperialist, Edwardian Proconsul 
by Roger Owen.
Oxford, 436 pp., £25, January 2004, 0 19 925338 2
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... speaker. He also had terrible stomach problems in later life, perhaps because of the French chef he always took around with him. (At one point he could eat only Bengers baby foods.) His portrait by JohnSingerSargent, which adorns the cover of this volume, makes him look, in the view of Sargent’s biographer, like ‘a business executive’. He attracted neither the adoration nor the hatred that ...
10 July 2003
Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting 
by Gary Tinterow and Geneviève Lacambre et al.
Yale, 592 pp., £50, March 2003, 0 300 09880 4
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... of Juan de Pareja was at Longford Castle, to name only the outstanding examples. Just how little general awareness there was of this development is clear from the fascinating pamphlets published by John Snare, an antiquarian bookseller who was convinced that he had found Velázquez’s portrait of the future King Charles I of England, made in Madrid in 1623. In the course of legal action in 1851 ...

Very like St Paul

Ian Sansom: Johnny Cash

9 March 2006
The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend 
by Steve Turner.
Bloomsbury, 363 pp., £8.99, February 2006, 0 7475 8079 0
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Walk the Line 
directed by James Mangold.
November 2005
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... to grace; thus, George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh, and Rock Against Racism, and Live Aid, and Farm Aid, and Red Wedge, and Rock the Vote, and Live 8, Coldplay, U2, the late and the later John Lennon, and perhaps almost as many good causes as there are actors. It can only be a matter of time, surely, before Eminem turns, however briefly, to Christ and begins to walk in the way of ...
30 October 1997
Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall: Kindred Spirits 
by Terry Castle.
Columbia, 150 pp., £15.95, November 1996, 0 231 10596 7
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Your JohnThe Love Letters of Radclyffe Hall 
edited by Joanne Glasgow.
New York, 273 pp., £20, March 1997, 0 8147 3092 2
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Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John 
by Sally Cline.
Murray, 434 pp., £25, June 1997, 9780719554087
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... less disguised, fictional portraits of each other. Jonathan Brockett in The Well of Loneliness bears an unmistakable resemblance to Coward. Hall’s heroine Stephen Gordon (Radclyffe Hall was called John for most of her adult life) knows that Brockett, a playwright with soft white hands and an effeminate voice, is a man ‘who would never require more of her than she could give’. When they visit ...

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