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luís soares

Blog do escritor Luís Soares

Dr. Pozzi at home


Dr Pozzi at Home is an 1881 oil painting by the American artist John Singer Sargent. The portrait of the French gynaecologist and art collector Samuel Jean de Pozzi was Sargent's first large portrait of a male subject.

Samuel-Jean Pozzi (1846–1918) was a pioneer in the field of modern gynecology in France; his practices advanced the reproductive safety and dignity of women. He was also an aesthete and an art collector whom Sargent greatly revered. The artist’s admiration for his charismatic sitter is evident in this dramatic portrait. Sargent portrays the worldly man in an almost ecclesiastical mode, with a gracious, slightly mannered pose and crimson costume that reference images of popes and cardinals by the old masters. Pozzi’s long fingers and elegant hands suggest his surgical prowess but also hint at his sensuality, which is further evoked by his informal dressing gown and the lush velvet curtains. This portrait was the first work Sargent exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1882.

The painting was intended to serve as an advertisement for Sargent’s skills as a formal portraitist. With its brazen color and self-conscious elegance, it did notimmediately find critical favor. More than 100 years later, John Updike served up the most memorable critique, calling the portrait “shameless romantic flattery of its brighteyed subject, with a cozy crimson aura of satanic drag.”

The Black Brook

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John Singer Sargent - The Black Brook (c.1908)


The girl seated in the foreground of this painting is the artist's niece, Rose Marie Ormond (1893–1918), daughter of Mrs Francis Ormond and later wife of Robert Michel. She appears with her sister, Reine Ormond (Mrs Hugo Pitman), in another painting ‘The Brook’ in the possession of Mrs Francis Ormond's second son Mr F. Guillaume Ormond in July 1961 (information from Mr Hugo Pitman, 18 July 1961), where they are dressed in Oriental costume. The site in both pictures is almost identical, a mountain stream at the Chalets de Purtud, near Courmayeur, Val d'Aosta, just south-west of Mont Blanc and almost 5,000 ft. above sea-level.

The Tate painting has also been known as ‘The Brook’, but there is ample evidence to show it was the work exhibited at the N.E.A.C. in 1909 as ‘The Black Brook’, and it was purchased with that title in 1935. An old label on the stretcher reads: ‘J. S [torn] The black brook, a girl seated by a stream Bought New English Art Club Exhibn 1909 Cleaned 1924 [rest torn].’ Descriptions of this painting which appear in the press-cuttings of the N.E.A.C. exhibition make it clear that the Tate picture is the one referred to. Its date is most likely to be 1908, not 1909, since it was the artist's custom to travel abroad in the late summer or early autumn, and the 1909 summer exhibition of the N.E.A.C. opened (according to an annotated catalogue in the Gallery archives) on the 22 May.

Madame X


Madame X or Portrait of Madame X is the title of a portrait painting by John Singer Sargent of a young socialite named Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, wife of the French banker Pierre Gautreau. Madame X was painted not as a commission, but at the request of Sargent. It is a study in opposition. Sargent shows a woman posing in a black satin dress with jeweled straps, a dress that reveals and hides at the same time. The portrait is characterized by the pale flesh tone of the subject contrasted against a dark colored dress and background.

The scandal resulting from the painting's controversial reception at the Paris Salon of 1884 amounted to a temporary set-back to Sargent while in France, though it may have helped him later establish a successful career in Britain and America.

John Singer Sargent - Vernon Lee (1881)


Vernon Lee was the pseudonym of the writer Violet Paget (1856-1935), best known for her books on Italian Renaissance art. Sargent had known her since childhood when their families had been neighbours in Nice, and she remained a friend all his life. This portrait sketch was painted in a single session lasting three hours. Sargent gave it to her, writing on it through the paint 'to my friend Violet'.

From the late 1870s Sargent was amongst those artists trained in Paris who made Impressionism an international style, blended with the technique and attitudes of old masters such as Velasquez. In this sketch his free brushwork makes for a brilliant illusion, and suggests the ambiguity of this author who adopted a male name.


Tate - Gallery label, August 2004