John Singer Sargent (1856-1929), Mrs. Edward Goetz, 1901, oil on canvas, 58 ½ x 42 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack R. and Mary Lois Wheatley, 2000.
This week, on January 12, we celebrate the birthday of the American expatriate painter John Singer Sargent. Sargent’s portrait of Mrs. Goetz, an amateur pianist and composer who lived near Hyde Park in London, indicates her privileged status with her elegant clothing and dignified pose. Of the upper class himself, Sargent was born in Europe to American parents but did not visit the United States until he was twenty-one. For twenty years, beginning in the 1880s, he painted portraits of the elite on both sides of the Atlantic. His magical brush captured details with few strokes and enhanced the loveliness of his women sitters in an era when women’s beauty was thought to purify and elevate the world around them.