"Self Portrait", oil painting, 1907
John Singer Sargent (January 12, 1856 – April 14, 1925) was a painter especially known for his fine portraits. He is usually thought of as an American artist, although he lived most of his life in Europe. Sargent was born in Florence, Italy to American parents. He studied in Italy and Germany, and then in Paris under Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran.
His portraits are remarkable for subtly capturing the individuality and personality of the sitters; his most ardent admirers think he is matched in this only by Diego Velázquez. Sargent's Portrait of Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), done in 1884, is now thought to be one of his best works, but it aroused so much negative reaction in Paris at the time that it prompted Sargent to move to London.
Although Sargent lived in the United States for less than one year, some of his best work is there, especially his decorations for the Boston Public Library. Sargent is usually not thought of as an impressionist, but he sometimes used impressionistic techniques to great effect, and his Claude Monet Painting at the Edge of a Wood is rendered in an impressionist style.
Sargent painted a series of three portraits of Robert Louis Stevenson. The second, Portrait of Robert Lous Stevenson and his Wife (1885), was one of his most well-known. It sold in 2004 for US$8.8 million to Las Vages casino mogul Steve Wynn to be installed at his newest casino, Wynn Las Vegas.
About 1910 Sargent mainly forsook portraits, focusing mostly on landscapes in his later years.
In a time when the mainstream of art was focused on Impressionism and emphasizing artistic individuality, Sargent emphasized his own form of Realism and regularly worked doing commissioned portraits of the rich. This made him be dismissed as an anachronism at the time, but appreciation of him as a great artist has grown since his death.