John Singer Sargent

Portrait of John Singer Sargent
Alvin Langdon Coburn. Sargent, 1908
Also known as
John S. Sargent
Date of birth
Date of death

John Singer Sargent was the most sought-after portraitist of his generation on both sides of the Atlantic. Best known for his powerful, vibrant portraits, Sargent nevertheless excelled in a variety of genres, including landscapes, watercolors, and murals. Born in Florence to American parents, he lived abroad, traveling the world in search of his subjects and working professionally for more than 50 years.

Sargent first exhibited at the Art Institute—at the time located at Michigan Avenue and Van Buren Street—in 1890, drawing crowds of visitors to the museum and helping to put Chicago on the map as a recognized center for contemporary art and culture. His ability to straddle the line between tradition and the avant-garde continued to impress audiences and collectors at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Sargent’s work was regularly featured in the galleries of the Art Institute as well as other venues and homes in the city. Foundational collectors in Chicago, including Charles Deering, Martin A. Ryerson, and Annie Swan Coburn, helped to secure Sargent’s presence, and eventual legacy, in the city.

A 2018 exhibition at the Art Institute examined Sargent’s impressive breadth of artistic accomplishment and the many connections between the artist, his patrons, his creative circle, and the city of Chicago.

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