Sharjah: Aladdin Mahmoud
Some paintings are immortalized and entrenched in the minds because of the stories that revolve around them, especially those that talk about the artist’s attachment to the subject of his painting, and his sincerity in drawing it to the point of excellence and creativity, as the artist does not move his brush only to paint the details of the painting; Rather, it embodies his feelings and spirit.
Painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) is considered one of the most important American artists of his time. He moved between European capitals and held the first exhibition of his drawings at the Paris Salon in 1878, after which he moved to Britain, where he made London his permanent headquarters, and John completed his main works in Europe .
The portrait of “Ms. Agnew” is considered one of his most important artworks. It reinforces his constant passion for making a creative work that is aesthetically and semanticly complete. The artist in this painting, in addition to the colors, is with music; He was passionate about the subject of painting, and showed the lady of the painting as well as her beauty, a very intelligent lady, and she belonged to a family of wealthy classes and she was educated and cultured.
The work depicts Gertrude Agnew, wife of Andrew Agnew, 9th Baronial, daughter of Hon-Goran Vernon and granddaughter of Robert Vernon, 1st Baron of Yadden Castle. Her husband was a friend of the artist, so he asked him to paint a painting for his wife to show her his sincere and deep love. Indeed, the artist began painting it in 1892, and it is said that the painting, which found a great and resounding success, gave Mrs. Agnew more importance and social status, and there is speculation that the family may have faced financial difficulties that led to an attempt to sell the painting in 1922, but that did not happen, and Agnew died in London In April 1932 after prolonged ill health.
Agnew had a strong personality, in addition to her distinctive beauty and goodness, and the artist intended to show her intelligence and unique personality in addition to her beauty, by focusing on the details of the face, hands and manner of sitting. It is said that the artist’s ingenuity in the painting had another reason, as the girl, because of her beauty and personality, captured the painter’s heart, so he became masterful in drawing her; It was also said that his love for the girl inspired him to play music while working, so he moved back and forth between the brush and the piano, and the result was that wonderful masterpiece that people and critics admired, and it was described as the most beautiful painting of a woman in the history of art, as an article in the British Times mentioned, In the same year in which the work appeared, the painting was not only a triumph of technique; Rather, it was the best example of portraiture, in the literal sense of the word; The newspaper pointed out that Sargent did not give up any of his usual accuracy in the painting, but abandoned his manners, and contented himself with making a beautiful picture of a charming subject, under conditions of satisfaction and inspiration. The newspaper described the painting as a masterpiece.
The painting is painted in oil colors, and in its scene, Mrs. Agnew is shown seated in a French-style Bergère chair dating back to the 18th century. Art historian Richard Ormond stated that the back of the chair is used as a curved support space to contain the figure, creating an elegant and distinctive appearance. Sargent depicts the girl in a three-quarter length pose, dressed in a white dress with a purple silk sash as an accessory around her waist, while the wall behind her appears to be draped in blue Chinese silk.
The painter excelled in showing her as if she was talking or interacting with the beholder of the painting, and the critic Ormond and Kilmorey noticed that the girl seemed to be recovering from the flu at the time, which may explain the laziness in her situation, while the great skill of the artist appears in working on the girl’s eyes, as they shine with extreme intelligence. And the sharp, direct look that she appears to be cultured and independent, and many critics have described the girl’s looks as “quietly difficult”, and “something veiled and attractive in her lively half-smile.” Many art historians and critics have stated that the painting is the product of the interaction between the figure of the Lady and the painter who is able to read others in depth.
Mrs. Agnew does not occupy all the chair space in the scene, she sits on the side, and maintains a half-smile that seems lukewarm. The artist excelled in distributing colors and their different degrees from bright to dark, and although the dress was in white in proportion to the color of the chair and the background, the scarf that she wore came with a slight degree of violet; Which created a kind of consistency, and the position of the left hand extended behind the chair shows a kind of lofty status and self-esteem, as the manner of the session shows the social class to which the girl belongs.
The painting found great interaction and was shown for the first time at the Royal Academy in London in 1893, and it is said that its presentation in that great artistic edifice had a significant impact on the acceptance of the artist himself as a member of the Academy in the same year. Art experts praised Sargent and Sargent’s artistic methods, as this portrait raised the artist’s status and enhanced his fame in Europe, and the painting participated in many other exhibitions, including Copley Hall in Boston in 1899, and the Carnegie Institution of Pittsburgh in 1924.
The painting became the property of the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, where it still hangs in its original old French Rococo frame, and it is not known whether this is the same frame described by Sargent in an 1893 letter to Sir Andrew: It might fit the board..it’s expensive. I think it’s £20, I don’t know if the picture looks good on it, it’s hardly worth the price.”
The exhibition preserves many messages and documents related to the painting and its story since it was painted and its various movements. The exhibition indicates that the painting was called “Ms. Agnew,” and then became known as “Portrait of Mrs. Agnew,” at the desire of Ms. Agnew personally.
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