The daughters of Edward Darley Boyte - John Singer Sargent. 221.93 x 222.57 cm
This large canvas has become one of the most famous in the vast heritage of Sargent. During its creation, it caused a flurry of emotions, and not all of them were approving and positive. Innovation is always criticized, as happened with this somewhat unusual picture at that time.
Nobody knows exactly how the idea of creating such a portrait arose, whether it was made by order of the girls' parents or by the desire of the master himself. The picture captures four girls, most likely in the interior of their own home. The composition of the canvas is somewhat unusual, most critics see in it some similarities with Velazquez's painting “Menins”. Given the artist’s love for this Spanish painter and a thorough study of his creative method, it is possible that Sargent himself used Velazquez's ideas for his creation.
Previously, group portraits were always staged, that is, the characters were lined up or planted in a certain order. But in this picture a separate moment in time seemed to freeze. There is nothing artificial in it - the artist portrays girls in a natural setting, in lively and laid-back poses.
The younger girl plays with dolls, sitting on a beautiful oriental rug of a bluish tint. Its coloring echoes two huge Japanese vases, which can even be attributed to their image. Moreover, they even exist in our days. Together with the portrait, they were transferred to the Boston Museum by the sisters themselves depicted on the canvas - a painting in 1919, and vases - in 1997.
These magnificent, tall vases became the reason for ridicule of the artist, they created caricatures of the picture and called it a sale in an antique shop. Meanwhile, the canvas has a number of unconditional artistic merits, the main of which is the immediacy, naturalness of the behavior of the models. Two older girls seemed to whisper among themselves, the middle froze, carefully and shyly looking at the audience.
A special effect to the canvas gives the image scale and the play of light and shadow. The figures of the girls seem especially brightly lit against the background of the interior and the distant part of the room immersed in darkness. This play of light is emphasized by the snow-white aprons of girls, so that they seem to glow. It is a centuries-old moment of a happy childhood, a calm and cheerful fragment of a bygone life.