The Paradoxical John Singer Sargent
Paul Fisher, professor and chair of American Studies at Wellesley College
A great American artist, John Singer Sargent is also an abiding enigma. While dressing like a businessman and crafting a highly respectable persona, he scandalized viewers on both sides of the Atlantic with the frankness and sensuality of his work. He charmed the nouveaux riches as well as the old money, but he reserved his greatest sympathies for Bedouins, Spanish dancers, and the gondoliers of Venice. In his new book The Grand Affair, the historian Paul Fisher offers a vivid life of the buttoned-up artist and his unbuttoned work. Sargent’s nervy, edgy portraits exposed illicit or dark feelings in himself and his sitters—feelings that high society on both sides of the Atlantic found fascinating and off-putting. In this talk as well as in his book, Fisher explores the enigmas of fin de siècle sexuality and art in order to grant the painter and his paintings a new and intense life.
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