Museums and Art

“Robert Lewis Stevenson and His Wife,” John Singer Sargent - Description

“Robert Lewis Stevenson and His Wife,” John Singer Sargent - Description

Robert Lewis Stevenson and his wife, John Singer Sargent. 52.1 x 62.2 cm

This picture is the second of three portraits painted by Sargent for the famous writer. It is worth mentioning that the first portrait, judging by the surviving data, was destroyed by Stevenson's wife. It is clear that he did not like it categorically, but even the second picture was met, if not with hostility, then it was not completely understood by the contemporaries of the master and the customer himself - the creator of Jekyll and Hyde.

A lot of things confused the artist’s contemporaries in this painting - a strange, very unusual composition with a displaced center of attention, a tan color scheme and an interpretation of the images of the writer and his wife. Critics wrote that Stevenson was in a strange, even bizarre pose, his wife sitting in a chair in the opposite part of the picture, like a ghost dressed in a dress that was not quite clear in form. But there is evidence that the writer, when thinking over his books, often jumped up and literally ran around the room, not paying attention to those around him. Sargent, being a close friend of Stevenson, could repeatedly observe this picture and transfer his observations to the canvas.

The biased composition as if distracts the attention of the audience from the writer's wife, as from a secondary character, completely transferring it to Stevenson himself. The open door located in the center of the picture serves as a visual separator of space. A tall and very thin writer looks nervous and excited, he has a tense expression on his face and a self-absorbed look. Perhaps at this moment another brilliant line of the book is born in his head. He is dressed in a dark velvety home frock coat and tight light brown trousers, emphasizing his thinness. Brilliant patent leather shoes complement the outfit.

The image of the wife is a complete mystery. Her face is almost invisible, and the dress is made of "torn", arbitrary brush strokes. From a distance it looks very impressive, but it’s impossible to even determine its shape and style in the vicinity. The portrait of a woman does not even fit completely on the canvas.

A small by the standards of Sargent painting was painted in an impressionistic manner, with free and expressive brush strokes. Moreover, the background of the canvas is more “smooth”, worked out, and the figures of the characters are made with active lines and strokes, giving the image dynamics and expressiveness. This picture is unusual and extraordinary, so it is attractive to the audience to this day. She was ahead of her time.


Watch the video: The Portrait Institute John Singer Sargents Lady Agnew 1 (October 2021).