Chaperoning Sargent by Laura Gray McCann

Cover image: John Singer Sargent, Ramón Subercaseaux in a Gondola (detail), 1880; Oil on canvas; Collection of the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Gift of Cornelia Ritichie, 1996.2.13

Every year, the Dixon receives a number of loan requests from museums around the world for a painting or object from our collection to be included in an exhibition. Right now, the Dixon’s Ramón Subercaseaux in a Gondola (ca. 1880) is in the fascinating exhibition, Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends at the National Portrait Gallery in London. After causing a sensation at the 1884 Paris Salon with his painting of Madame Gautreau (Madame X, 1884, Metropolitan Museum of Art), American painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) moved to England to escape the scandal. Over the next few years he established himself as the country's leading portrait painter, and became closely connected to many of the other leading cultural figures of the time, including artists Auguste Rodin and Claude Monet and Chilean expatriates Ramón Subercaseaux and Eugenia Errázuriz. Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends is a selection of Sargent’s more intimate, non-commissioned portraits, and the Dixon’s Ramón Subercaseaux in a Gondola is among these informal works from the artist’s early years. 

When paintings in our collection are available and able to travel to another museum, the utmost care must be taken to ensure their safety. So, how did Ramón Subercaseaux in a Gondola get all the way to London? Did we FedEx it? Did we buy the painting a plane ticket? Did it need…a chaperone?!? In a sense, all of the above! As the luckiest member of the curatorial staff, I accompanied the Dixon’s painting as it traveled from Memphis to London. 

After arriving and unpacking the painting at the National Portrait Gallery, I got a sneak peek at the rest of the exhibition. One of the most exciting moments was being behind the scenes at a museum that I had visited many times as a student and tourist. I toured the British Museum, had high tea at the Savoy Hotel, and went for a run along the banks of the River Thames! I was very sad to leave both the museum and London. Until next time!


The view somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.


The River Thames, overlooking Westminster Bridge with the palace of Westminster and Big Ben on the left and the London Eye on the right.


Ta-da! Ramón Subercaseaux in a Gondola on the wall in Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends at the National Portrait Gallery

Posted by Chantal Drake at 12:27 PM
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