Portrait Gallery

The Washington Evening Star, April 15, 1925


Was One of Greatest Portrait
Painters of Recent Times.
Son of American.

By the Associated Press.

LONDON, April 15. —John Sargent, the noted artist, died suddenly at his home in Chelsea this morning. Mr. Sargent suffered a stroke at 3 o'clock and died a few hours later.

John Singer Sargent, probably one of the best known portrait painters of recent times, was born in Florence Italy, in 1856, the son of Dr. Fitzwilliam S. Sargent, Boston physician and author.

With the exception of some half dozen visits to the United States, the last of them in 1903, he has made his home In European capitals, and since 1884 had lived in London.

One of his best known portraits is that of Theodore Roosevelt.

Found Dead by Maid.

A maid discovered Mr. Sargent dead in his bedroom when she brought up his breakfast at 8 o'clock this morning. She immediately called a doctor, who, after an examination, decided that the artist had died between 3 and 4 a.m.

Sir Phillip Sassoon was the first caller at the Sargent home after the fact of the painter's death was known. Sir Phillip had been away on a visit, and on returning to London rang up Mr. Sargent to invite him to luncheon and was shocked to hear that he was dead. He drove to the artist's residence in his motor car and left a floral tribute.

Mr. Sargent had intended to exhibit at the Royal Academy exhibition opening early in May, and a number of his paintings were taken from the house last week to be put on view at Burlington House, where the exhibition will be held.

Health Had Been Good.

The noted American artist had been in good health, and was at work on a picture as late as last night. He had booked passage on a steamer sailing for the United States on Friday to complete his decorative work in the Boston Library. Sargent's last work, upon which he had been laboring recently and which death leaves uncompleted, is a painting of Princess Mary and her husband. Viscount Lascelles. Only yesterday they sat two hours for him in his Tite street studio, the exterior of which is one of the sights of the art colony in Chelsea.

Admired as Artist.

Many of Sargent's fellow academicians were busy superintending the hanging of paintings, some of them his own, in Burlington House, the home of the Royal Academy, this morning when the news of his death reached them. The public has as yet had no view of the paintings to be displayed at this year's exhibition, and officials of the Royal Academy this morning declined to give any indication of the nature of Sargent's pictures. His name was on every tongue I within the walls of the academy, where he not only was admired and respected as an artist, but was greatly loved as a colleague and a gentleman.

Was Prolific Worker.

No public buildings in England bear the decorative impress of Sargent's genius, as is the case in the United States, but taking his work as a whole, England doubtless shelters and cherishes far more creations from his brushes, pencils and pens than does his own country. His paintings and

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Famous Artist Dead

JOHN N. SARGENT. From portrait by himself.


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sketches are scattered all over England, in great town houses, country estates, in clubhouses and the homes of various organizations.

During his long career Sargent was prolific both with pen and pencil. While his portraits and sketches of prominent and wealthy personages total a very large number. Most of the great public galleries of England long have exhibited some of the better examples of his work and last year his collection of portraits of the Wertheimer family was hung in the special room in the national gallery. This was a rare recognition of his genius, for the national gallery seldom accepts the work of living artists.


Series of Paintings in Boston Museum Started in 1923.

By The Associated Press

BOSTON. April 15.—The death in London today of John Singer Sargent leaves some of the work of the great portrait and mural painter unfinished. On the last of the artist's periodical visits to this city, in 1923, he began a series of paintings in the rotunda of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, but returned to England, leaving completion of the work for another time.

Although recognized as one of the great portrait painters of his time, much of Sargent's fame in America rested on his mural decorations in public buildings of Boston, which was his home on many of his trips to the land of his ancestors. The best known examples of his work are to be found in the Boston Public Library, the Widener Library at Harvard and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The two first-named collections are complete, The series at Harvard having been finished in 1916.

In 1923 Sargent installed a series of paintings in the rotunda of the Museum of Fine Arts. A series of decorations in keeping with the work in the rotunda was to have been added over the main stairway, but death has intervened.

Painting Caused Dispute.

The series of paintings in the Boston Public Library portraying the history of religion contains one composition. “The Synagogue.” over which a legislative battle was waged for several months. Efforts were made to have the painting, which portrays the conflict between Judaism and Christianity, removed on the ground that it cast reflections on the Jewish religion. In June. 1922. the Legislature passed a bill ordering the library trustees to remove the painting, but a later ruling by the Supreme Court caused it to remain in place. At the height of the controversy an attempt was made to mar the painting by throwing ink on it, but no serious damage was done.

Prior to his visit to Boston in 1923 to install the decorations at the Museum of Fine Arts Sargent last visited this city in 1916, when he was engaged in his work at the Widener library at Harvard. His visits to America were widely separated and were for the most part in connection with his art. He rarely spoke for publication and never discussed or commented on his own work, leaving it to his friends or associates to make known his opinions.


Sargent Grew Up in Atmosphere of Great Works.

For many years now the name of John Singer Sargent has held first place among American artists; none has ranked higher among contemporary artists in the world. It has been a name to conjure with; it has been a name which all have honored.

John Singer Sargent was horn in Florence in 1856 of American parents. His father was a physician; his mother painted, not professionally, but as a pastime, and possessed a distinct gift for art. He grew up amid those great monuments of art in Florence in an atmosphere of culture, refinement and beauty in a home where in intellectuality controlled. At 18, after having studied somewhat at the Florence Academy, he presented himself at the studio of Carolus-Duran in Paris, seeking instruction, offering in testimony of his sincerity of purpose a modest portfolio of drawings. Duran accepted him and in a short time the pupil outstripped the master.

But Sargent was an earnest student He did not employ short cuts to art; he went the long road of hard study. He was abundantly endowed, at birth with genius, and, like others so gifted, he came early into his own. “The Oyster Gatherers.” owned by the Corcoran Gallery of Art was painted when he was in his twenties, Almost as soon as he began exhibiting he was recognized as a great painter, and great he has been from that day to this.

For many years Sargent made his home in London. He is the only American artist whose works have been given place in the great British National Gallery of Art. He is one of the few American artists who have been invited to paint their own portraits for the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, Italy. He has received almost every honor which an artist can win. During the Great War an unpainted canvas by him with his promise to paint any one who purchased it, sold at auction for $50,000. The amount going to one of the great war funds. His works have been purchased by practically all of the great governments for their national collections.

It was Sargent who painted the portrait of Roosevelt in the White House. His is the great portrait of Maj. Higginson at Harvard. He painted portraits of John Hay and of Gen. Leonard Wood, both of which have been exhibited in the Corcoran Gallery. When a great exhibition of Sargent's paintings was held In the Grand Central Galleries. New York, last season it was visited, according to report, by, not thousands, but hundreds of thousands.

Paintings for Library.

Some years ago he accepted the commission for a series of mural paintings for the Public Library in Boston. To this series belongs the “Frieze of the Prophets.” so well known through reproduction. He had lately completed a series of mural decorations for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Some years ago he gave up portrait painting and since that time he had painted only for his own pleasure— landscapes with figures in oil and in water color, works which, however, have found not only ready sale but eager purchasers.

Since the war Mr. Sargent had spent part of each year in this country completing the decorations for the Boston Public Library and Art Museum and superintending their place ment, taking excursions into the Canadian Rockies and showing himself in every way at heart an American. His power as a painter had witnessed no diminution and his death may be regarded in the light of a national calamity.


John Sargent Dies at Home in London, The Washington Evening Star, April 15, 1925 (PDF)