Painted Portraits

4 April 2015
This paper discusses the work of American painters Cecilia Beaux and John Singer Sargent.

This paper explores the works and styles employed by Cecilia Beaux and one of her teachers, John Singer Sargent. It gives a brief personal history of each painter and their early influences. It further explores their unique styles, for Beaux, it was based on French impressionism and color, and Sargent’s ability to portray essence. Finally this paper attempts to show why portraits remained popular during a time in which photography was widely used.
One of the reasons that Beaux and Sargent were popular painters even in an era in which portraiture was becoming more and more the domain of the photographer was that while portraits have always been made to serve as keepsakes and visual memoirs, they have also always served other functions as well, perhaps the primary of these being to mark the social status of the subject.

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Portraits by their very nature never be mass-produced but must also be commissioned. This means that they are expensive, requiring someone to be able to pay an artist to devote all of her or his skills and time to the subject alone. Thus portraits have always served as a proxy, a marker of high status.

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