Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Visiting "Madame X" at the Met

Part of Randy's and my trek around New York this past weekend included seeing John Singer Sargent's "Madame X" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- a painting this master considered his masterpiece. I've certainly read enough about it, but I've never seen this beauty in person.

All sorts of history accompanies this painting. In short, when "Madame X" was first revealed in the Salon, one strap on the subject's dress was off her shoulder -- and this "touch" set off a huge scandal in Paris -- ultimately causing the successful portraitist, Sargent, to have to restart his career in London.

The subject, too, was trying for the artist -- constantly moving, changing position, and generally acting as a moving target. John Singer Sargent worked and thought hard about how to best capture this intriguing, multi-faceted woman. It's just the right pose, drama, dress and attitude. Tons of sketches -- that would have produced less exciting paintings -- preceded this.

As an artist, I could also see his frustration on the canvas. The background, particularly around the head shows areas of paint where he worked and reworked the surface. It's a masterpiece -- but the process was a battle.

There are battles with almost every painting I create, as well. There's something I want to capture or create that I've never done before -- and it's hard work. There is, however, nothing like the sense of accomplishment that comes from having gone to battle and created a winner.

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