Tour at Two: John Singer Sargent

Artist John Singer Sargent would have been 165 years old today, January 12. In celebration, we are taking a look at Ramón Subercaseaux in a Gondola for today’s #tourattwo.  

Born in Italy to American parents, John Singer Sargent was seen as a prodigy from his very arrival in Paris as a young art student in 1874.  By 1880, when he painted his friend, the Chilean diplomat and amateur artist Ramón Subercaseaux, in a Venetian gondola, he was only twenty-four years old, but already attracting the notice of critics and art patrons in Europe and even the United States.  Earlier that year, Subercaseaux commissioned Sargent to paint a more formal portrait of his wife, Amalia, in the couple’s Paris apartment.

Ramón Subercaseaux in a Gondola is a charming vignette of Venetian tourism in the late nineteenth century, but it also affords a view into Sargent’s broad and diverse circle of friends and acquaintances.  In addition to being an amateur artist, Subercaseaux was the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, allowing him and his family to travel throughout Europe as cosmopolitan ambassadors for their country.  In this colorful painting, Sargent sketched his friend while he in turn was scrutinized and sketched himself.  The work offers an intriguing window into the artistic process as we see Subercaseaux as simultaneously maker and subject.

John Singer Sargent, Ramón Subercaseaux in a Gondola, 1880; Oil on canvas mounted on panel; Gift of Cornelia Ritchie, 1996.2.13

Posted by Kristen Rambo at 2:00 PM
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