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Milestones in American Art

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Mrs. William Shakespeare

circa 1896
29 3/8 x 24 1/2 in. (74.6 x 62.2 cm)

John Singer Sargent
American (Florence, Italy, 1856 - 1925, London, England)

Object Type: Painting
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 1957.14
Link to this object
Location: Not currently on view

John Singer Sargent was the most fashionable portrait painter working in England and the United States in the late 1800s. He was not only a gifted artist, but an accomplished pianist and linguist. The novelist Henry James once remarked that London society at the turn of the century saw John Singer Sargent and his friends “…all swimming just now in a sea of music,” with Sargent being “as much a player as a painter.”

The sitter of this portrait, Louise Weiland (c. 1850–1911), was brought up at the court of Dresden, Germany. She married the British singer, composer, and conductor William Shakespeare, one of Sargent’s closest friends, in 1875. Mrs. Shakespeare was best known for the musical salons she held in her London home, which brought together artists, musicians, and members of high society. She was described by her friend Eva Ducat as a quiet woman who “hid brilliant gifts under a gentle, deprecating manner.” According to Ducat, Sargent tried to capture Mrs. Shakespeare’s characteristic wistful expression by telling her sad stories as he painted her portrait.

[Forman Gallery, Summer 2015]

Marks
Artist's signature, upper right: John S. Sargent

Inscription, upper left: To My Friend Shakespeare


Provenance
William Shakespeare; his sale, Christie's, London, June 24, 1927, as lot 81; bought at that sale by Mr. Moore, London; Frederic Newlin Price (dealer), New York, by 1928; purchased by the Gallery in 1957

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