Sargent -- American
237 x 352 cm
x 138 1/2 in.)
Gerten's Fine Art
Q. What is the
meaning of El Jaleo?
I just viewed a
video called American
Visions: the Gilded Age, done for PBS in 1997 written and narrated
by Robert Hughes. In it he talks about El Jaleo. He says it means the
clapping and shouting that comes like an "Olay!" at the apex of
So what we're seeing
is the zenith
of the dance, at the height of its energy. The man with his head
tilted back is shouting. You can see the dancer's foot, with her firm
solidly stomped to the ground in a resounding clap against the hard
The passion of the dress being controlled, flipped, the audience
played to like a matador’s cape with the stoic aloofness of a tease.
room is focused except for the musicians strumming hard their
intensity with cadence clipped in staccato beats that mirrors her quick
and sudden movements sending her shawl flailing. The collective hands
the audience clap in point/counter-point to the sharp patterned stomp
her heels. The
energy is contagious and Sargent draws you into his dark room giving it
a low light splashing the shadows high and playing like shadow
against the wall in almost a dreamlike feeling. It's base. It's primal.
It's gloriously beautiful.
This is Sargent at
his best! The
passion just oozes off the canvas.
His whole life,
Sargent would have
a love affair with Spanish music and its culture. He would say
it is the most beautiful music and that all great music had, in
one form or another, some roots to Spanish music. Even his
thoughts for the Boston Public Library murals were to be on Spanish
Unlike most of his
one was not painted on site but reconstructed in his Paris studio from
memories and sketches that he did during his Spanish trip of the fall
winter of 1879/80.
In May of 1882 he
Jaleo at the Paris Solan with resounding applause. Here was man
of much more than just portrait paintings with a passion and mystery
the public liked. Sargent is feeling his oats and loving it.
(c m i @
I wanted to first
tell you how wonderful
I think your web site is. It invites enjoyable browsing and I found
links giving me many ideas for further browsing.
Second, I was was
wondering if you
could share your knowledge on "everything Sargent" with me. I am a
dancer (I'm from Chicago, living now in Minneapolis - I began my
in Chicago, and now travel to Spain every year) and my dream is
self-produce a concert this fall.
One of the
vignettes in the evening's
concert is / will be based on El Jaleo.
Do you have any
info on projects
such as this that have been done before? Any advice or ideas to
when pulling this concert together. We are thinking to open that
vignette with a slide projected on the scrim - or maybe just display
of his flamenco inspired art in the lobby. El Jaleo is a theme for only
one of the 5 vignettes, so although highlighted, JSS' art is not the
theme. I may use the Study for Spanish Dancer for the program notes,
Thanks again for
your knowledge and
Flamenco, and El Jaleo
I love Flamenco
dancing and share
Sargent’s passion for the art. I just think it’s wonderfully
I'm sure you know,
but others may
not, but there was a movie made in 1983 called “Carmen”. It was
in Spain, staring Antonio Gades, Laura del Sol, Paco de Lucia,
Hoyes, and Directed by Carlos Saura (sp?) (it’s a great movie and some
of the art-house video stores should have it). The crux of the story is
about a Flamenco dance troupe getting ready to produce the play “Carmen”.
Although the plot is contemporary (1980's) with much of the movie
place in a dance studio, you quickly loose yourself in the casting,
and rehearsals and find yourself someplace between the reality of
dance troupe and the passion of the play itself.
Once they have
their Carmen, the
story grows deeper quickly, and the director who is also the leading
finds himself falling in love with the young female lead dancer who has
the passion and mystery of Carmen herself.
Her name happens to
be Carmen as
well, and she has another lover, -- one rehearsal leads to
one dance and song leads to the next as the play is unfolding before
What’s real? What’s just the actors acting? The lines get blurred and
don't know. You don’t care.
The dance sequences
and bear the heart and soul of the movie. Never have I see a movie that
has captured the art of the dance so well. In a stroke of genius,
the director has left the play unpolished and the focus is on the
The costumes are simply dancer’s tights and leggings, but there is
doubt after the movie is over, that what you just saw was one of the
adaptations of Carmen ever captured on film – I highly recommend
But I have gone far
afield of your
letter. If I’m not mistaken, the play Carmen was first produced in the
mid nineteenth century (you might know more about this than me). So the
general public who saw his painting at the Salon of 1882 would have
about the play.
It was not
Sargent’s intent that
the scene we see in the painting to be of "Carmen" -- but just of what
it is – a local cantina with a dancer and musicians.
Spanish Gypsies and
the culture. He would often declare himself to be half Gypsy. This was
all tongue-in-cheek because he was nothing of the sort; but it tells
where his heart was.
the painting in
a live performance twice, once in America and then later again in
-- both times Carmencita was the dancer. Nothing is known about
music was used. Much of what I know about Sargent I've already written.
Make special note of the links I’ve highlighted above and particularly La
Carmencita. I don’t know of any other productions done with El
being a focal point, but it sounds like a wonderful idea.
In reproducing the
keep two things in mind. First, Sargent intent was to capture the mood
through the lighting -- the dark room with low lighting and the shadows
thrown against the wall. Secondly, and this is my own feelings, Sargent
has taken us to a local cantina in Spain and we're
glimpsing a group of performers that are playing as much for themselves
as any intended audience.
I love the scrim
idea. If you could
somehow reproduce the textured plaster wall with hanging guitars in a
then use your dancers and chairs to sit in front. But the problem is
you wouldn't get the moving shadow on the wall from the dancer which
everything that Sargent was trying to achieve. Instead of actually
front low lighting for a real shadow, you might try to artificially
a moving shadow from behind the scrim (maybe a fan with tensile) it
be exact but would give you that eerie feeling of movement. Or maybe a
combination of front lighting for the dancer upstage and scrim
(could that work???) Then after the vignette is over and the musicians
and dancers exit taking the chairs with them, you could cut the front
and slowly dissolve a slide of El Jaleo against the scrim as
of a finally -- which might prove to be pretty dramatic.
Just an idea. It's
fun to think of
how to do it. -- Good luck and thanks for your note.
(c m i @
Thanks for your
reply, Natasha. Yes,
Saura's "Carmen" is a wonderful film. I plan to scour your site for
info and stories of Sargent in Spain. If you'd
like, I'll keep you posted on the project!
wrote back -- she
Flamenco does Sargent
Additional studies of
From: H W Cates
H W Cat es @
Wed, 16 Oct 2002
done an enormous
amount of work. God Bless YOU and THANK YOU!
I am from Texas,
originally, I now
live in New England. I'm in my 70s and lived a quite satisfying life,
some awful setbacks. I have always enjoyed Flamenco music and
culture. I DO know something about both. (That's why I have some idea
the awesome effort represented by your site.) My wife (no.2 and also a
Flamenco/Gypsy aficionada) and I sleep nightly under the largest copy
El Jaleo the ISG ever produced, which was before the cleaning. So I
see "el Jaleo" every day of my life.
After "el Jaleo"
was cleaned, loaned
and re hung about 1988, the "opening party" which I attended, because I
was an ISG member at the time, was handled beautifully. A Gypsy friend
of mine, Pedro Cortes, Jr. then in NYC, performed flamenco guitar
by a cantaor and bailora for the event. It was wonderful!
Not long ago, I saw
a book, I don't
remember where or Title or what, that was part of a JSS exhibit, that
something called Gypsy or Flamenco Sketches. They were simple oil
"sketches" of single or small groups of Flamenco performers on a white
canvas. If you could help me locate any details on the book they are
or prints of the actual sketches, I would be very appreciative.
I live about 65
miles north of Boston
and I'm a member of the MFA, and Harvard museums, I work as a Security
Guard at the Currier Museum in Manchester. I am no longer a member of
ISG because they screwed up my membership records so badly when I sent
in a request for a change in address when I moved up here about 15
Abrazos, and thanks
if you can help
me locate the "Flamenco Sketches"! Homero
Friday, 18 Oct 2002
Thank you so much.
Apparently El Jaleo
was so popular
for Sargent, that he was asked a number of times to draw additional
after the fact, which apparently he did. Just how many of these, such
the drawings with watercolor added for highlight at the Met in NY, I
know -- you probably know a lot more about this than I do.
I would assume the
book you are referring
to must be about some of these additional drawings. I haven't heard of
it but let's hope someone writes and tells us.
I've tried to pull
together all the
thumbnails relating to this painting, but you might additionally look
the year 1879
has some additional Spanish dancers.
here, the conversations takes two divergent paths which I separate.
Wayne does Sargent's
From: Kathie Roskom
Date: Fri, 20 Oct
Did you know that
the scene of "El
Jaleo" was recreated in the movie "The Alamo" (John Wayne)? I
it in a most amazing way several years ago. I was watching
and during a commercial while I was channel surfing I suddenly saw the
painting (which I had just seen days before) come to life!!!
In the story the
Texans are sneaking
around the Mexicans camp one night while they are drinking and
As everyone in the scene gets to just the right position the action
for just a moment, and then continues on.
I remember from my
film classes in
college that it was once a 'fad' to create these tableaus in
It was great fun to see, but the split second timing that led to me
onto that particular station at that particular moment was quite
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2000
No!!! . .
Since I saw it as a
little kid I'm
wracking my brain and I'm faintly remember the scene
This is great --
I'm going to rent
the movie this weekend.
Yep, there is was,
but it was only
but a second or two.
Subject: The Play
Carmen -- more
Had John Sargent
by the play Carmen?
Here's the article
on the play:
first, if you don't know the Opera read Natasha's Cliff Notes on “Carmen”]
Also check out:
his opera Carmen following the old tradition of setting operas in
more than 20 in Seville alone. It opened in 1875 at the Opera Comique
Paris.The story-line is more complicated than Prosper Merimée’s
novel; more characters were added and stereotypes exaggerated by the
Meilhac and Halevy. The original story had to be adapted to
conform to the conventions and expectations of the audience accustomed
to bourgeois melodrama. The result was a little too shocking for the
theater (Carmen was a public enemy, a threat to law and order,
revolutionary ghosts, and nevitably had to die in the end, something
in the Opera Comique) but also a little too diluted and denaturalized
the purist, who considered it basically a French opera imbued with
gypsy motifs, perhaps a Spanish reflection of a moment in French
after the failed revolution of the Paris Commune. It was not a success,
initially. Nevertheless, Carmen would soon become the most popular
of all time and the Spanish Gypsy the enduring symbol of the exotiziced
romantic construction of Spain, as can testified by the numerous
and resurrections of Carmen, on stage, on screen, even on ice.
as to this day Carmen is still often claimed, in academic discourse and
in popular culture, to represent the pure -unmediated- spirit of
reading, you may consult
these books: McClary, Susan. George Bizet's Carmen. Cambridge:
University Press, 1992. Gould, Evlyn. The Fate of Carmen. Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins UP, 1996.
on Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870)
I know John Sargent
have painted a lot
of Spanish women such as Carmela Bertagna, Carmencita, the ladies of El
Jaleo, and the various Spanish gypsies. I think he's influenced
A lot of the books
on Sargent talk
about the play Carmen and it was certainly in the minds and imagination
of the French when they saw Sargent's painting.
You're are going to
love this. Ralph
Curtis (John's friend) saw references to Carmen in El Jaleo. Take a
Curtis paints Carmen
Movies of Carmen
-- more in depth
Date: Posted 4/20/01