“The coat is the picture,” John Singer Sargent explained to his fellow artist Graham Robertson in the summer of 1894, tugging a heavy garment ever more tightly around his sitter’s slender figure. More attentive to what he hoped to accomplish as a painter than he was to the dictates of contemporary fashion, Sargent often chose what his sitters would wear. Even when they came to him dressed in the latest mode, he frequently ignored or simplified the details, concentrating on texture, drape, and the way fabrics responded to light. Exploiting dress as an integral ingredient of his own artistry, Sargent used clothes to proclaim his own aesthetic agenda while simultaneously establishing his sitters’ social position, profession, gender identity, and nationality.
Fashioned by Sargent explores the complicated relationship of painting and fashion through lavish reproductions of Sargent’s works alongside exquisite costumes of the period—including garments actually worn by his sitters. Essays by leading scholars illuminate topics such as portraits and performance, gender expression and the New Woman, and the pull of history and the excitement of new ideas, offering readers new insights into masterworks by a beloved American artist.
About the author:
Erica E. Hirshler is Croll Senior Curator of American Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Caroline Corbeau-Parsons is a Curator at Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
James Finch is Assistant Curator, 19th Century British Art, Tate.
Pamela A. Parmal is a textile and fashion arts curator.