Friday, November 28, 2008

Exasperated by the demands of his sitters, Sargent proclaimed portraiture to be “a pimp’s profession” and by 1907 resolved never to accept another oil paintings portrait commission. During his later years, the fine art reproduction artist devoted himself to creating decorative murals for public buildings and to oil paintings watercolors and small canvases purely for pleasure.

In 1911 Sargent vacationed with his sister’s family in Switzerland, where he painted Nonchaloir (“nonchalance”). A casual character study instead of a formal oil paintings portrait, it depicts Sargent’s niece Rose-Marie Ormond Michel, whom he nicknamed “Intertwingle” because of her agile, intertwined poses. Influenced by the “fine art for art’s sake” movement, the oil painter unified the color scheme with the amber light of a lazy afternoon. The straight lines of the posh furnishings in the Swiss hotel accentuate the swift brushstrokes used to delineate his niece’s fingers, hair, cashmere shawl, and satin skirt.

Late in life, Sargent also returned to landscapes oil paintings, working almost exclusively outdoors. He spent the autumn of 1908 relaxing on the Spanish island of Majorca. Valdemosa, Majorca: Thistles and Herbage on a Hillside is a tour de force of Sargent’s brushwork. Against the sandy soil, the sunny highlights that gleam from roots and twigs create abstract networks of white paintings.