John Singer Sargent's Portrait of Miss Eliza Wedgewood
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Portrait of Miss Eliza Wedgewood  
John Singer Sargent -- American painter  
c. 1905 
Watercolor and Pencil on Paper 
53.5 x 36cm (21 x 14 in.)  
signed and dedicated for my friend Eliza

Miss Eliza Wedgwood is a member of the famous porcelain manufacturing family, a personal friend of his sister Emily and John and she accompanied them on some of their trips. John paints her a number of times such as Miss Wedgwood & Miss Sargent, Sketching (1908) and Mosquito Nets (1908). 

But what I've grown to love so much about John's water colors is the degree in which he can express so much with an economy of strokes making his water colors just amazing. Portrait of Miss Eliza Wedgewood is such a good example of this. 

The following is taken from a personal account of Mary Newbold Patterson Hale, a cousin of John's in Boston. 

To see one of Sargent's water colours in the making always reminded me of the first chapter of Genesis, when the evening and the morning were the first day, order developed from chaos, and one thing after another was created of its kind. Having chosen his subject and settled  himself with the sunshade, hat and paraphernalia all to his liking, he would  make moan over the difficulty of the subject and say, "I can't do it," or "It's unpaintable," and finally, "Well, let's have a whack at it."  

Perfect absorption would follow, and after what looked like a shorthand formula in pencil was on the block, the most risky and adventurous technique would come into play, great washes of colour would go on the paper with huge brushes or sponges, and muttering of "Demons! Demons!" or "The devils own!" would be heard at intervals. 

All the time the picture was growing surely, swiftly; he worked through to the end, only stopping when it was a subject where light and tide changed before he could get it all in, and two "goes" were necessary. 

Mary Newbold Patterson Hale, The World Today, November 1927

  • See the year in review 1905
Sold at Sothebys; 12/3/1998, lot 49; $176,067 


By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2002 all rights reversed
Updated 10/25/2002