Saturday, May 02, 2015

Portrait Society of America Conference 2015: Day Two Part 1

Day two of the conference began with an informative talk and slide show about John Singer Sargent by Michael Shane Neal. A couple of x-ray photos of the infamous painting of Madame X were of particular interest to me. This gorgeous painting hangs in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Unfortunately for Sargent, the exhibition of this painting proved to be almost fatal to his career. The painting was viewed with horror and was considered scandalous, leaving the subject and her mother bathed in tears.

I know society was much different back in those days, but personally, I am puzzled by the slipped strap on her right shoulder being such a big deal (apparently women swooned at the sight). There is another painting of Virginie in existence (although in a pale dress) with exactly the same déshabillé dress, although in this instance it is the left shoulder strap that has fallen. I am not sure if this painting came before or after the one Sargent created. Does anyone know?

Many people think Sargent's facility with paint was effortless, but the x-rays indicate a struggle. The arm position and perhaps even the slipped strap were changed more than once in the underpainting. Having this knowledge is encouraging for those who admire Sargent's work and seek to emulate his skill, since it proves that he spent a lot of time preparing for and perfecting those bravura brushstrokes on the surface.

A Revelation by Executive Chair Edward Jonas

At the end of his presentation, Shane Neal had a wonderful announcement for those gathered. A video was played, with Executive Chair Edward Jonas announcing the release of a special edition copy of Sargent's palette that would be available for purchase!

Michael Shane Neal with new reproduction palette - very light and comfortable to hold!

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