Thursday, December 21, 2006

Family Portraits



Portraits of Edouard and Marie-Louise Pailleron by John Singer Sargent, Des Moines Art Center.

Sargent was one of the primer portrait painters of the 19th century. His work brought out the very best in his sitters and therefore made him very popular. These children belong to Edouard Pailleron and famous 19th century French playwright and his wife.

3 comments:

John Schoffstall said...

That is one strange painting. The signal intensity of the girl's head-on stare. The alienation of the boy. (And is he wearing lipstick?) The lack of anything solid to define the space the human bodies float in: the foreground is just an inchoate mass of oriental rugs. The backdrop is a wildly romantic and dangerous Turner sky.

I'm positive these two children went on to become mass murderers. Or Bolshevik revolutionaries. Or British Nazis. Aren't you?

Anonymous said...

See this link for a different color balance and larger image. I am inclined to agree with the prior post. The blood-red to burgundy backdrop resonates of Victorian images of Hell. I can easily imagine the boy's overpronounced ear being pointed. They both look like they are coming for me.

Anonymous said...

I cannot fathom why a person would want a portrait of their own child looking like this. And I cannot imagine what Sargent saw in them to paint them like this. The boy looks like a vindictive ghost, and the girl looks like an ax murderess. Their expressions are very strange, even in the context of Sargent's other works. His portraits often bear strange expressions that are not to be expected from a portrait- smugness and spite to name a few. But they are never eerie and somewhat violent.
On the other hand, though, this portrait is disturbingly intriguing, and highly psychological, and in that way, almost beautiful. It makes you want to look at it.

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