John Singer Sargent’s “Mrs. Goetz” at the MOA
Guest post by Alyssa Weyland, Marketing and PR Intern
Wealthy people commission portraits. Extremely wealthy people commissioned portraits from John Singer Sargent.
Although he spent most of his life in Europe, Sargent’s parents were American, and he is considered an American artist. Known around the turn of the 20th century as “the Van Eyck of our time,” Sargent was the undisputed king of portraiture. He was also incredibly prolific, painting over 900 paintings over the course of his career. He charged about $5,000 for his paintings, which is about $130,000 in current US dollars. Subjects would sit for him in 8-10 sessions, and he would occasionally take a break to play piano for them.
Sargent is perhaps best known for Portrait of Madame X, a strikingly beautiful portrait of socialite Madame Gautreau, painted in 1884, now on display at the Met in New York City. To protect the identity of the Parisienne socialite, Sargent named the painting Madame X. However, the public backlash against the painting’s open sensuality was harsh and the French refused to commission any more paintings from Sargent, causing him to move to London.
A portrait that contrasts sharply with Madame X is Mrs. Edward Goetz, a piece in the BYU Museum of Art collection of American art. Where Madame X has dramatic contrasts of black and white, Mrs. Edward Goetz is much softer, using tones of greys, blues, creams to create soft, billowy lace and the satin dress. Madame X’s pose is sharply turned away from the viewer and contrasts with Mrs. Goetz’s softer gaze towards the viewer.
Mrs. Goetz was an amateur pianist, composer, and hostess of a musical salon. Her musical legacy is preserved in her weathered hands and expression that verges between stern and warm.
Portrait of Mrs. Edward Goetz, painted by master portraitist John Singer Sargent is currently on display at the MOA in the exhibition Becoming America.