Catalogue entry

N05066 W. GRAHAM ROBERTSON 1894

Inscr. ‘John S. Sargent 1894’ b.r.
Canvas, 90 3/4×46 3/4 (235×118·5).
Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1940.
Coll: Painted at the artist's request in summer 1894.
Exh: R.A., 1895 (503); Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1896 (1134); Society of Portrait Painters, New Gallery, 1907 (61); Paintings by British Artists, Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, August–September 1908 (26, repr. p.6); Ausstellung Amerikanischer Kunst, Königliche Akademie der Künste, Berlin, March–April 1910 (60, repr. in illus. supplement); R.A., winter 1926 (417, repr. Illustrations of the Sargent Exhibition, p.21); Tate Gallery, June–October 1926.
Lit: Downes, 1925, pp.39, 173; Charteris, 1927, pp.140, 154, 174, 265, repr. facing p.154; W. Graham Robertson, Time Was, 1931, pp.233–8, 241, repr. as frontispiece; Mount, 1955, pp.200–2, 434; McKibbin, 1956, p.119; Mount, 1957, pp.165–7, 343, repr. facing p.226
Repr: Wood, n.d., pl.4 (in colour); Manson and Meynell, 1927, n.p.

Walford Graham Robertson (1866–1948), portrait and landscape painter, book illustrator, theatrical costume designer, playwright and collector. He presented and bequeathed to the Tate Gallery over twenty paintings and drawings from his collection of works by William Blake, as well as the portrait of his grandmother, Mrs Greatorex, by Andrew Geddes, and other works.

This portrait shows him as a young man with his eleven-year-old poodle ‘Mouton’ of the St Jean de Luz breed. Sargent had begun painting a portrait of the sitter's mother and also one of his friend the actress Ada Rehan. It was through Miss Rehan that the artist let it be known to Graham Robertson how much he wanted to paint him in his elegant long overcoat. Robertson agreed to this, but the hot summer weather made it impossible for him to wear such a thick garment unless he stripped himself of most of his other clothes. This paring down accentuated the slimness of his figure to the delight of Sargent, who draped the coat even more closely about him.

Sargent did not complete the portrait until after his return from France later in the year and had meanwhile seen for the first time Whistler's recently finished portrait of Comte Robert de Montesquiou, on exhibition at the Paris Salon. He was afraid that people would remark on the coincidental similarity in pose adopted by the two artists. An oil sketch on canvas, 36×28 in. (painted area, 15 1/2×28 in.), for this portrait was discovered under another canvas of ‘Mrs Russell Cooke’ (R.A. 1895 (647)) in August 1964 and lent anonymously to Birmingham Art Gallery, September–October 1964 (hors catalogue).

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II