The greatest SARGENT portrait in the National Portrait Gallery, London:
I have just finished my third reading THE GREATER JOURNEY by David McCullough. My first reading made me realize how little I really know about Americans abroad. The second reading was for pleasure. This, the third reading was undertaken to teach me the details about some of the greatest artists an authors–Americans who found the greatest exposure and training abroad. I loved reading this wonderful book because I have been in Boston; and,many of the pieces of art and some of the great authors lived in Boston and New York. I read about Augustus St. Gaudens’ favorite sculpture of the Afro-American troops on Boston Common and decided to go see it. Well, when I read about Sargent’s portrait of ELLEN TERRY as Lady Macbeth, I knew I needed to quote from THE GREATER JOURNEY to highlight this magnificent portrait which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.
Page 420-421 THE GREATER JOURNEY, David mcCullough
“He (Sargent0 had been to see the opening night of MACBETH in London,with the great English actress Ellen Terry in the leading roles. At the moment when Ellen Terry first appeared on stage, Sargent was heard to exclaim quietly, ‘I SAY!’
She wore a long flowing robe of dazzling green, blue, and gold and it was thus that Sargent painted her, at her crowning moment in the tragedy, literally lifting a gold diadem over her head. He felt deeply the infinite power of music, books, and great theater, and at his best, in his most serious work, he strove to express his own deepest emotions about life.
He chose a large canvas–interestingly it was almost exactly the same size dimensions as his MADAME X–and he rendered Ellen Terry’s powdered face in shades nearly as deathly pale. But here there was no labored reworking of the paint. He put it on with his natural flair, in swift, sure strokes and dashes, and with greatest pleasure obviously in her sense of show. There was no holding back. She had been on the stage since age nine and was at the height of her career, as the gold crown suggested. And h and she both wanted that to be apparent.
The painting, his only literally theatrical work, left no doubt of Sargent’s love of her artistry in that powerful moment in the play-he moment–in addition to his own power.
The brilliance of the work was recognized at once It went on to exhibit in London in May of 1889, at the New Gallery. The critic for London TIMES said that to stand before it was to enter a new world altogether….It was, said the TIMES, certain to be the most discussed painting of the year, and “without exception the most ambitious picture of our time.”
My view? Read the book David McCullough’s THE GREATER JOURNERY and report to the NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY to see ELLEN TERRY AS LADY MACBETH. Goodness, this is great fun, isn’t it? I love all this. I could read all night. I am sure you read as much as possible as well. Fabulous to live while enjoying all of this.
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918