Women in art: Sargent, Whistler, Bellows | Rock Candy

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Women in art: Sargent, Whistler, Bellows

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 at 2:51 PM

Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian by Whistler
  • "Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian" by Whistler, 1888, National Gallery of Art

Three portraits of women by James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent and George Bellows are on loan from the National Gallery of Art at Crystal Bridges for the next 12 months, grouped with portraits from Crystal Bridges' own collection. The ensemble represents portraiture of the turn of the 20th century: ladies in lovely clothing rendered, in the case of Whistler and Sargent, in quick, competent and lush brushstrokes.

Sargents portrait of Mary Crowninshield Endicott Chamberlain
  • Sargent's portrait of Mary Crowninshield Endicott Chamberlain, 1902, National Gallery of Art

A review of a Bellows retrospective at the National Gallery in the New Yorker magazine (subscription required to read the whole piece, but not to see a slideshow or an abstract of Peter Schjeldahl's review) says Bellows, in his portraiture, was struggling to find his artistic voice and would "lavish attention attention on settings and clothes, at the expense of vital presence." If you go to Crystal Bridges, look at Bellows' portrait of Florence Davey, with the National Gallery apparently decided it could spare from its Bellows show, and see if you agree. Sargent's portrait of Mary Crowninshield Endicott Chamberlain and Whistler's "Mother of Pearl and Silver: The Andalusian" predate the Bellows portrait by a decade or more and employ the brushy "wet on wet" style Bellows used to such good effect in his earlier boxing scenes.

Florence Davey, by Bellows
  • "Florence Davey," by Bellows, National Gallery of Art

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