From The Collection Of… is a new series highlighting the amazing artwork of the world that is discoverable — and shareable — on the Internet. Most museum collections contain far too many pieces to exhibit in their galleries, so locating these images online may be one of the only ways of enjoying them. Over the next year or so, I will be sharing my favorites from collections large and small, far and wide. Follow My Word now to enjoy this journey through the — often hidden away — world of art.
We visited the Gardner Museum many years ago and I was quite impressed with seeing this portrait in person. The museum holds many John Singer Sargent pieces and this was my first introduction to the breadth of his work including everything from large paintings such as this to small sketches made in preparation of larger paintings and simple studies. — Douglas
Madame Pierre Gautreau, born Virginie Avegno (1859–1915), was Madame X, the statuesque sitter in Sargent’s most notorious portrait (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Critics considered the portrait in scandalously bad taste, and the sitter’s mother asked Sargent to withdraw the painting from the Salon of 1884, which he refused to do. This much smaller and more intimate painting was done a year earlier, and was given by Sargent to Madame Gautreau’s mother. By purchasing this painting at the end of her life, Mrs. Gardner acquired an important document of Sargent’s career, and also a slice of her own history, since she had wanted her portrait by Sargent to rival the sensuous impact of the infamous Madame X.
Source: Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 203.
Read more about John Singer Sargent and the Gardner Collection and Museum in these books