A major exhibition featuring the works of the foremost American portrait painter of the late 19th-century, John Singer Sargent, opens at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York on May 29, 2010. John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women features approximately 25 paintings of Sargent’s portraits of American women and connects the artist’s stylistic choices with the character traits of his female subjects.
Divided into three thematic sections – Women of Fashion, Women of Mystery, and Women of Substance – the exhibition showcases images of women who exerted leadership in the arts and society as well as in their careers and in the intellectual community. It will also demonstrate Sargent’s keen interest in exotic women little known or understood by an American audience, and his visual assertion of the importance of mystery in the definition of femininity.
John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women features well known subjects such as Sargent’s famous Capriote model Rosina Ferrara and perhaps his most famous (or infamous) subject of all, Virginie Avegno Gautreau, or Madame X, represented in the exhibition by two preparatory drawings for her 1883-4 portrait.
“John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women breaks new ground in several ways,” commented Dr. Paul S. D’Ambrosio, Vice President and Chief Curator at the Fenimore Art Museum and exhibition organizer. “It is the first museum exhibition devoted exclusively to Sargent’s portraits of women. It is the first exhibition to directly compare the varied attributes of the women Sargent portrayed and the visual strategies employed by the artist to communicate those characteristics. Lastly, paired with the Museum’s new exhibition Empire Waists, Bustles and Lace, the first exhibition of the Museum’s collection of historic costumes, the Sargent exhibition will be the first to allow visitors to see and experience broader historical context of women’s fashion.”