Saturday, June 2, 2012

Portrait of an Age: John Singer Sargent and Paul César Helleu

Trinity House Paintings will present an exhibition of pictures by master portrait artists John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925) and Paul César Helleu (1859-1927) at their gallery in Broadway, UK, 8 - 15 June 2012. The show will then travel to their Mayfair gallery at 50 Maddox Street, London W1 from 18 - 22 June, and latterly will be on their stand at the Masterpiece London fair, 28 June – 4 July. The exhibition provides an excellent opportunity to view the work of these two artists and great friends alongside each other.

Sargent was the most celebrated portrait painter of the Edwardian age. In 1885, Sargent caused a scandal when he painted Madame X, a sensual portrait of Mme Gautreau, a noted society beauty. He fled Paris and over the next five years he used his new found freedom and flamboyant social network to his advantage. This period of development coincided with his time spent in Broadway, a quiet Cotswold village that had been ‘discovered’ and ‘colonised’ by various artists as well as wealthy artistic Americans.

He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1887, with the Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. This large piece painted on site of two young girls lighting lanterns in an English garden was produced during his time in Broadway, on the same High Street as Trinity House’s flagship gallery. The painting was immediately purchased by the Tate Gallery, where it is still exhibited today.

Marionettes, 1903 Alternative title: Behind the Curtain; (Marionettes) Oil on canvas, 28 x 21 in. (72.4 x 53.3 cm)

A highlight of the exhibition at Trinity House Paintings is Marionettes painted in 1903. The picture records a backstage performance of Sicilian rod puppets, with two knights in battle, watched by a distressed female in black. Marionettes is the only documented picture of a marionette theatre by Sargent, and it was painted in the Philadelphia slums, during the artist’s visit to the city in May 1903. Philadelphia had and still has a large Italian community, including many Sicilians, who brought their native traditions with them, including their marionette theatres. Also of interest by Sargent is an impressive oil on canvas study featuring Pomegranates, Majorca in dappled sunlight painted in 1908.