About This Artwork

John Singer Sargent
American, 1856–1925

Mrs. George Swinton (Elizabeth Ebsworth), 1897

Oil on canvas
231 × 124 cm (90 3/4 × 48 3/4 in.)
Signed, lower left: "John S. Sargent"

Wirt D. Walker Collection, 1922.4450

Mrs. George Swinton epitomizes the painterly virtuosity that made John Singer Sargent one of the most favored portraitists of fashionable Europeans and Americans in the late 19th century. Extravagant color and brushwork were central to Sargent's success, as was his ability to present an image of his sitter that adhered to social standards. In Elizabeth "Elsie" Swinton's case, he accentuated her regal bearing and feminine dress. She was also known for her musical talents; at the time her portrait was executed, she was recognized as an amateur singer and later began performing professionally. Swinton's pose indicates both the poise of a performer and the countenance of a fashionable, worldly woman.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

London, England, The New Gallery, Summer Exhibition, April 24- ?, 1897, cat. 245 as Mrs. George Swinton.

Edinburgh, Scotland, Royal Scottish Academy, The Ninety-First Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, May 5-September 1, 1917, cat. 142 as Mrs. George Swinton (incorrectly cited as lent by Captain George Swinton instead of Mrs. Henry Edward Ebsworth).

Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Twentieth Annual International Exhibition of Paintings, April 28-June 30, 1921, cat. 304 as Portrait of Mrs. George Swinton (incorrectly cited as lent by Captain George Swinton instead of Mrs. Henry Edward Ebsworth).

Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio, The Twenty-Ninth Annual Exhibition of American Art, May 27-July 31, 1922, cat. 38, as Portrait of Mrs. Swinton.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Thirty-Fifth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, November 2-December 10, 1922, cat. 202 as Mrs. Swinton.

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings by John Singer Sargent, April 14-July 1, 1924.

Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the Late John Singer Sargent, November 3-December 27, 1925.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Memorial Exhibition of the Work of John Singer Sargent, January 4-February 14, 1926, cat. 29.

Leeds, England, Leeds Art Galleries, Lotherton Hall, John Singer Sargent and the Edwardian Age, April 5-June 10, 1979; traveled to London, National Portrait Gallery, July 6-September 9, 1979; Detroit Institute of Arts, October 17-December 9, 1979.

Whitney Museum of American Art, John Singer Sargent, October 7, 1986-January 4, 1987; traveled to Art Institute of Chicago, February 7-April 19, 1987, cat. 118.

National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, The Portrait of a Lady: Sargent and Lady Agnew, August 8-October 19, 1997.

Publication History

“The New Gallery,” The Times (London), Saturday, April 24, 1897, p. 10.

“Art Notices,” The Illustrated London News, 110, 3028 (May 1, 1897), p. 587.

“The New Gallery Summer Exhibition,” The Academy, 51 (May 1, 1897), p. 479.

“The New Gallery,” The Saturday Review, 83, 2168 (May 15, 1897), pp. 537-538.

“The New Gallery,” The Atheneum, no. 3630 (May 22, 1897), pp. 686-687.

Henri Frantz, “Les salons Anglais: Royal Academy et New Gallery,” Ga.zette des Beaux Arts, vol. 19 (1897), pp. 253-260.

John LaFarge, “Sargent, the Artists,” The Independent, 51, 2630 (Thursday, April 27, 1899), pp. 1140-1142.

Marion Hepworth Dixon, “Mr. John S. Sergeant as a Portrait-Painter,” The Magazine of Art (1899), pp. 112-119.

A. L. Baldry, “The Art of J. S. Sergeant, R.A., Part I,” The Studio, 19, 83 (February 1900), pp. 3-21.

-----. “The Art of J. S. Sergeant, R.A., Part II,” The Studio, 19, 83, (February 1900), pp. 3-21.

Charles H. Caffin, “John S. Sargent: The Greatest Contemporary Portrait Painter,” The World’s Work, 7, 1 (November 1903), pp. 4099-4118.

Arts and Decoration, 17 (June 1922), p. 118.

“Prizes and Honors in Exhibitions,” The Art Institute of Chicago Forty-Fourth Annual Report for the Year 1922, p. 40.

“Accessions and Loans,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, 16 (December 1922), p. 99.

“Prizes and Honors in Exhibitions,” The Art Institute of Chicago Forty-Fourth Annual Report for the Year 1922, p. 40.

American Magazine of Art, 14 (January 1923), p. 6.

Rose V.S. Berry, “John Singer Sargent: Some of His American Work,” Art and Archaeology ,19 (September 1924), pp. 83-112.

William Starkweather, “The Art of John S. Sargent,” The Mentor, 12 (1924), p. 29

William Howe Downes, John S. Sargent: His Life and Work (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1925).

H. B. Wehle, “The Sargent Exhibition,” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 22 (January 1926), p. 4.

The Hon. Evan Charteris, John Sargent (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1927).

Sir Osbert Sitwell, Left Hand, Right Hand! (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1944).

Frederick Sweet, Sargent, Whistler, and Mary Cassatt (Art Institute of Chicago, 1954).

Charles Merrill Mount, John Singer Sargent: A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1955).

John L. Sweeney (ed.), The Painter’s Eye: Notes and Essays on the Pictorial Arts by Henry James (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1956).

Charles Merrill Mount, “Carolus-Duran and the Development of Sargent.” The Art Quarterly 26, 1963), pp. 385-418.

Richard Ormond, John Singer Sargent: Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors (New York: Harper & Row, 1970).

David A. Hanks, “American Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago: Part II, The Nineteenth Century,” The Magazine Antiques (November 1973), pp. 895-905.

Maureen Green, “A New and Admiring Look at the Elegance of John Singer Sargent,” Smithsonian, 10 (October 1979), pp. 101-109.

James Lomax and Richard Ormond, John Singer Sargent and the Edwardian Age (London and Bradford: Lund Humphries, 1979).

Carter Ratcliff, John Singer Sargent, New York; Abbeville Press, 1982.

Eric Shanes, Impressionist London, New York: Abbeville Press, 1994.

David Lubin, Act of Portrayal: Eakins, Sargent, James (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985).

Patricia Hills, John Singer Sargent (New York; Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1986)

Gary Reynolds, “Sargent and the Grand Manner Portrait,” Antiques, 130 (November 1986), pp. 980-993.

-----. “John Singer Sargent’s Portraits: Building a Cosmopolitan Career.” Arts Magazine, vol. 62 (November 1987), pp. 42-46,

Kate F. Jennings, John Singer Sargent, (New York: Crescent Books, 1991).

Sarah Burns, “The ‘Earnest, Untiring Worker’ and the Magician of the Brush: Gender Politics in the Criticism of Cecilia Beaux and John Singer Sargent.” Oxford Art Journal, vol. 14, no. 1 (1992), pp. 36-53.

Suzanne Raitt, “The Singers of Sargent: Mabel Batten, Elsie Swinton, Ethyl Smyth,” Women: A Cultural Review, vol. 3, no. 1 (Spring 1992), pp. 23-29.

Trevor Fairbrother, John Singer Sargent: His Life and Work (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1994).

H. Barbara Weinberg, John Singer Sargent (New York: Rizzoli, 1994).

Judith A. Barter et al, American Arts at The Art Institute of Chicago: From Colonial Times to World War I (Art Institute of Chicago, 1998).

Judith A. Barter et al, The Age of American Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2011), no. 79.

Richard Ormond, et al, Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends (National Portrait Gallery, 2015) fig. 18 (ill.) pp. 124, 127.

Ownership History

Commissioned by Mrs. Henry Edward Ebsworth (the sitter's mother), 1897 (1) Llandough Castle, Cowbridge, Glamorgan, South Wales: (2) Gattonside House, Melrose, Roxburghshire, Scotland; (3) London, England; consigned by her to M. Knoedler & Co., London, England, and New York, 1915; sold to the Art Institute, 1922.

Interpretive Resources

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