John Singer Sargent – The British Portraits


John Singer Sargent, the son of an American doctor, was born in Florence in 1856. He studied painting in Italy and France and in 1884 caused a sensation at the Paris Salon with his painting of Madame Gautreau. Exhibited as Madame X, people complained that the painting was provocatively erotic.

The scandal persuaded Sargent to move to England and over the next few years established himself as the country’s leading portrait painter. Sargent had no assistants; he handled all the tasks, such as preparing his canvases, varnishing the painting, arranging for photography, shipping, and documentation. He commanded about $5,000 per portrait, or about $130,000 in current dollars. Following are portraits representative of Sargent’s prolific, and much prized, portraiture featurning British subjects.

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
In late 1892, Sargent began work on the portrait of Lady Agnew, commissioned by Andrew Noel Agnew, a barrister who had inherited the baronetcy and estates of Lochnaw in Galloway. The sitter was his young wife, Gertrude Vernon (1865-1932).


Hon. Victoria Stanley – 1899
Winifred, Duchess of Portland (Winifred Dallas-Yorke) – 1902

Countess of Warwick and Son (Frances Evelyn ‘Daisy’ Maynard) – 1905


The Countess of Essex – 1906


Theresa (‘Nellie’) Marchioness of Londonderry – 1912


Sibyl Sasson-Countess of Rocksavage  (later Marchioness of Cholmondeley)  – 1913


Sir Philip Sassoon – 1923 (Sybil’s brother)
Tate Gallery, London


Mrs. George Nathaniel Curzon (Grace Elvina, Marchioness Curzon of Kedleston) – 1925


The Hon. Lilian Maud Glen Coats, later Duchess of Wellington
For a complete online catalogue of the works of John Singer Sargent, click here.

4 thoughts on “John Singer Sargent – The British Portraits”

  1. Two interesting bits about the Lady Agnew portrait. In the film Mrs. Dalloway, the young Clarissa is wearing a gown that is a coy of the one Lady Agnew is wearing. And in the recent television adaptation of South Riding the portait of the wife/mother who is in the mental institution is a bad copy of this portrait.

  2. More trivia. The reason the Mme Gautreau portrait was considered so scandalous is because the right strap of her dress was shown as having slipped over her shoulder. Sargent had to repaint it properly on her shoulder.

    I think I would have left, too, for such a fuss!

    The painting is just so beautiful in person.

  3. I regularly visit the Curzon portrait, which hangs in a gallery half an hour from my home. Her great-great nephew is a great friend of mine–he looks nothing like her, though.
    I am always fascinated by the way Sargent can depict jewellery so realistically–the shine, the sparke–with a few brush strokes.
    It was the last portrait he painted.

Leave a Reply