John Singer Sargent
Vernon Lee 1881

Artwork details

John Singer Sargent 1856–1925
Vernon Lee
Date 1881
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 537 x 432 mm
frame: 750 x 640 x 88 mm
Acquisition Bequeathed by Miss Vernon Lee through Miss Cooper Willis 1935
Not on display

Display caption

Vernon Lee was the pseudonym of the writer Violet Paget (1856-1935), best known for her books on Italian Renaissance art. Sargent had known her since childhood when their families had been neighbours in Nice, and she remained a friend all his life. This portrait sketch was painted in a single session lasting three hours. Sargent gave it to her, writing on it through the paint 'to my friend Violet'.
From the late 1870s Sargent was amongst those artists trained in Paris who made Impressionism an international style, blended with the technique and attitudes of old masters such as Velasquez. In this sketch his free brushwork makes for a brilliant illusion, and suggests the ambiguity of this author who adopted a male name.

August 2004

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