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Portrait of Rodin
John Singer Sargent (1856 -1925)
Oil on canvas
H. 72 cm ; W. 53 cm
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After serving an apprenticeship with the society painter Carolus-Duran from 1874 to 1878, Sargent gained widespread recognition as a portraitist and developed a complex style that was at once sophisticated and theatrical. In 1884, Sargent and Rodin, both foreign artists invited to the Salon des Vingt in Brussels, became friends. That same year, the painter executed this portrait of Rodin.
Sargent presents a singular image of the sculptor, devoid of any allusion to his profession. All attention is focused on his face, which looms out of the darkness. Sporting a thick beard, the sitter reveals a strong personality. The leonine significance of this beard and hair is combined with the painter’s determination to render the sculptor’s expression gentle and piercing. Here, Sargent’s virtuosity lies in his ability to produce a portrait of both Rodin’s physical features and intellect.