Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for "Madam X" by John Singer Sargent and Y is for "Yellow Dress" by Degas

The painting on the left is by John Singer Sargent, an American Artist, called "Portrait de Mm ***" although when it was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1884, it created a scandal.  Everyone knew who the subject was, a wealthy American who married a French banker.  Madam Gautreau was known for her beauty, and her interests were her wardrobe and her pleasures.  John Singer Sargent was entranced with her and convinced her to pose for him, although he struggled with finding the right pose and perspective and having M. Gautreau pose for him long enough to finish the painting.  Unfortunately, the painting caused a scandal.  The pose, the subject, (originally the right strap was off the shoulder), and the fact that he had not quite established himself in France, and the French, being the French, "trashed" the painting.  Sargent was devastated as was M. Gautreau.  Sargent left France a few years later, returned to England and never came back.  He considered the portrait his finest work and later sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

What led me to "Madame X" as the painting came to be known, was Edgar Degas's painting in 1890 of "Seated Woman in a Yellow Dress."  The Madame X painting flashed in my mind.  Was Degas painting the same woman?  The nose, the red hair, the haughty expression seemed to be Madam Gautreau.  Degas rendered this in pastels, and you can imagine since there was such a scandal about Sargent's painting in 1884, Degas would have heard about it and perhaps even gone to see the exhibit.  Six years later, he created his own version.  In later years, French artists painted her, and even though she was wearing revealing gowns, the paintings caused no scandal.  

I was not able to find out any information about "Seated Woman in a Yellow Dress."  This was my own idea.  What do you think?


"Portrait de Mm***" John Singer Sargent. 1883.
"Seated Woman in a Yellow Dress."  
http://www.artble.com/imgs/

19 comments:

  1. Interesting theory, and many of these models didn't mind posing for several artists. After all if the painting was a success, the model would be forever immortalized (well as long as the image survives). I imagine it was a bit of a bragging right to be asked to sit for an artist in those days. I mentioned this painting in my John Singer Sargent post, too. Bad press isn't always a negative thing.

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    1. Degas did this pastel in his later years as he was losing his sight and of course not as beautifully done as JSS. But what intrigued me was her story. The Met has a sculpture of her (a bust) by Rodin. She must have been quite a star.

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  2. John Singer Sargent created such a realistic portrait; I had to look twice at it. It is lovely.
    I would swear that Degas used the same model; the face and nose looks like the first painting. Degas put personality in his work. He wasn't heading down the same road.

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  3. It could be the same woman, but I like Sargant`s painting much better.

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  4. I think you have hit the nail on the head - these two pictures really do look like the same woman with her striking nose and red hair. I love the use of the colour yellow in Degas' painting.

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  5. The back stories are so interesting, we only know the smallest details. I would need to read more books, etc. on Degas to really get a more complete picture. Thanks, Susan, Jo and CH.

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  6. I have always admired the elegance of Sargent's paintings.

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    1. Elegance describes Sargent's work. He was so good!

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  7. What a small waist for that lady in elegant black dress!

    I am not knowledgeable about painters except for famous painters from my country and reknowned masters. I love visiting art museums though and thoroughly enjoyed the experience when I went for the teaser exhibition of Pinacothèque de Paris here in Singapore. I attended basic painting/drawing class and there I discovered it is true talent to be able to create a beautiful painting. I find it extremely genius on how painters can make really exquisite paintings like the ones you shared here.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by from so far away. And your comments about how difficult it is to really draw or paint well are so true. It takes years and years of practice and lessons and dedication and giving up having a normal life, I think. But, we have museums where we can gaze at these paintings and appreciate what it must have taken to create them.

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  8. I absolutely love the paintings!
    #theawsomedish :)

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  9. Thank you, PL. I do too. Did you know that Madame X used violet face powder? It did give her face this ethereal sheen.

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  10. Thanks, Skyline Spirit (love the name).

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  11. Hi Natalie .. you've added to the post yourself with the violet face paint! face powder ... and then the sculpture at the Met - I wonder if they know more .. or it's just Mme X again ...

    Amazingly they do look so similar - aquiline faces ... loved seeing these .. and I'll be back to read through your A-Zs again ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Actually, I thought I saw it on the Met's web site, but then I could not find it again, I think it was called Madame X. Cheers to you, Hilary. Now we can read blogs at our leisure! I have a great idea for a future topic for you :)

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  12. Sargent was a very talented and extremely versatile painter. He worked in various mediums and styles and was successful in all of them. I love the work of Degas but one thing he lacked was versatility; most of his stuff is in one very recognisable style. Your thesis is fascinating and probably correct but Degas's picture suffers in comparison with Sargent's.
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    1. True, but at this point, Degas was having trouble with his eyes and worked mostly in pastels. There is not denying JJS's wonderful technique, hard to compare.

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  13. What a excellent post ! That's really lovely blog. The SOLE meaning of life, is to serve humanity.” Sole: a word meaning Exclusive. Select: Of special quality or value; choice

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