American Art · American Art of the Week · Art History · Spotlight on Artists

American Art of the Week: Edwin Booth by John Singer Sargent

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Edwin Booth by John Singer Sargent, 1890. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Texas. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.
This week’s artist, like last week’s, is among the most famous artists in American history. In fact, he was very influential in turn-of-the-century art history as a whole, and he worked with and influenced many, equally-famous European artists. It was also his birthday yesterday (January 12), which is part of why I chose him. John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) made many of his best-known works, including the scandalous Portrait of Madame X, during the many years in which he lived in Europe, but he was an American-born artist who painted many American subjects throughout his career. His artfully-composed portraits of notable Gilded Age Americans are most familiar to many art lovers, but I am equally interested in his other work, including watercolors, European landscape scenes, exotic scenes from his travels, and casual images of his friends.

Today’s featured work depicts Edwin Booth (1833-1893) – actor, theatre owner, and older brother of Lincoln’s assassin. He also looks exactly like my college acting professor, which was commented on freely and frequently in our theatre department. To my knowledge, he never disagreed with the statement. Edwin Booth was a highly-influential thespian, so he probably viewed it as a compliment. This portrait is owned by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas, which is a collection I would love to see eventually.

I really enjoyed Erica Hirschler & Teresa Carbone’s John Singer Sargent: Watercolors (Boston: MFA Publications, 2013) – an exhibition catalog discussing Sargent’s watercolors owned by the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In fact, I liked the book so much, that I wrote this post about it after receiving the book two Christmases ago. I just got a new book about Sargent’s portraits of his family and friends for Christmas, so look forward to more posts about him once I’ve had a chance to read it.

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