Lady With a Rose

7:00 AM

John Singer Sargent, Lady With a Rose, 1882

In a previous blog post I remarked on how Leibl made me see the simple beauty of the people, yet Sargent destroys Leibl in his ability to capture the aura of people. A person’s movement, attitude, life unlike another other. Although most famous for his Madame X, Sargent brought the same fervor into all of his works.

Lady with a Rose attests to Sargent’s ability to paint a woman for herself without added or premeditated sexual tension. Charlotte Louise Burckhardt lack of sex appeal highlights Sargent’s talent. Her irritated face hints at her annoyance with her posture, and the strategically placed rose in her hand. Thanks to Deborah Davis we know that Louise’s mother attempted to set her and Sargent up. The two spent some time together, yet in a place of a wedding, the courtship ended in a painting. A beautiful, but bland work. Suggesting Louis was “a place saver for someone who might exercise a real romantic hold on Sargent in the future” (Davis 97). Sargent’s betrayal of her solidifies the relationship as a platonic one. He picks up on the undertones of a girl exhausted by her mother’s efforts to find her husband and exercise complete control. The black dress plays into the disheartening situation of Louise. A women not only confined by her garments and her mother, but by herself. Although she was so terribly bland she might not of noticed. 

Initially Sargent grew excited by new subjects and their mannerisms. He loved the thrill of attempting to figure them out. Unfortunately, once Sargent discovered the true identity of his subjects he grew bored. His boredom in essence is his brilliance. Instead of attempting to paint a person for how they perceived themselves, Sargent painted them “naked.” He stripped down their personality, taking bits and pieces of their interests and life, and then inserted them back into the subject. Sargent’s obsession with posture, attire, props, background, and facial expressions changed how the world perceived portraiture. He managed to cram one’s identity, social status, deepest emotions, fears, loves, into a single canvas. 

Sargent may not of loved Louise, but he painted her beautiful, bland self with the same passion and drive as he painted a child or Madame X. He captured Louise's annoyed glance that transcends time and appears in the faces of angsty teenagers across the globe. 

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