John Singer Sargent is often thought of as a quintessentially American painter. Born in Florence in 1856, he shuttled across the Atlantic, painting society divas and wealthy eccentrics, Venetian gondoliers and Spanish dancers, imbuing each of his canvases with a sense of life and movement beyond the frame. But in his new biography of the artist, The Grand Affair, Paul Fisher, a professor of American studies at Wellesley College, delves into the hidden half of Sargent’s life—the portraits of male models and the romantic friendships with men that he kept hidden. Fisher joins Smarty Pants to discuss what Sargent has to offer the contemporary art lover, and how our understanding of his work changed in the intervening century.
Go beyond the episode:
- Paul Fisher’s The Grand Affair: John Singer Sargent in His World
- Explore “Boston’s Apollo,” the 2020 exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum devoted to Sargent’s late-life muse and model, Thomas McKeller
- The National Gallery of Art’s “Sargent and Spain” exhibition is sadly past, but you can explore selected works online
A selection of the art discussed in this episode:
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