Sunday, 15 February 2015

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885-86

I've always thought you could breathe in the scent of this painting, the roses and lilies and spicy carnations. Sargent used to throw down his tennis racquet as soon the light began to fade on late summer evenings, painting for as long as the twilight lasted ...
The little girls were bribed to pose with lots of sweets.

The NPG's Sargent exhibition is a delight - especially when twilight fell, about 5pm, and there was hardly anyone left in the gallery. I retraced my steps and was able to look at all my favourites quite alone.

Édouard and Marie-Louise Pailleron, 1881
There were three portraits of the Pailleron family - two children, their father and their mother - now in collections in Paris, Washington and Iowa, and reunited for the first time in over a century. But how did they come to be separated? How does a family come to be parted from paintings like this? Did they fall on hard times? (They seem to have been purchased, not left in a bequest.) It felt like there was a story and I wanted to know more. Would they be happy to be reunited after so many years? Will it be a wrench when the exhibition ends and they are parted again?

The children look ... suspicious? discomfiting? resentful? or just plain bored? There were 83 sittings for this portrait and rows about their clothes and the little girl's hair.

And maman - see below - looks rather fierce.

Madame Édouard Pailleron, 1879
I like portraits that set you off making up stories.

There was the gynaecologist with the very long fingers ... can't you imagine his bedside manner? Or would you prefer not to?

Dr Pozzi At Home, 1881
He founded a society devoted to enacting sexual fantasies. Imagine him creeping at night in those very soft slippers. And see how his fingers twitch on his dressing-gown cord ...
OOhh, it's Fifty Shades and the red room of pain. (And no, I haven't seen it. Have you?)
I can't help thinking that Sargent was winding him up- and that Dr P was too vain to get it.


Vernon Lee, 1881
Vernon Lee was the pen-name of the formidably intelligent Violet Paget. 'I hate the hawking about of people's faces,' she said, refusing to allow her portrait to be used on her book-jackets.
I felt a bit guilty standing in front of her, staring ... how she would hate it, if only she knew.

9 comments:

Aparatchick said...

Oh lucky you, to be able to see that Sargent exhibition. I've always thought that Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose is the perfect depiction of dusk. So lovely.

mary said...

I'm sure I'll go back again, Aparatchick - I did enjoy it.
Is it too far for you?

kristina said...

So looking forward to this exhibition. And now even more excited having read your review. I completely agree that the best portraits are the ones that 'set you off making up stories'--the ones that make you feel like you know just what the person would have been like. x

Anonymous said...

The sketch of Vernon Lee looks so modern. Of course I always thought she was a boy when it used hang in the old Sargent room at the back of the Tate.
Best, Herts

Toffeeapple said...

If only I could get there...

mary said...

I'm sure you'll enjoy it, Kristina.

I 'm sure I must have seen Vernon Lee many times before, Anonymous - and yet I don't think I ever really properly looked. Like you, I'd have assumed she was a very gawky boy.

It's on for quite a while, Toffeeapple.No chance of a day trip?

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Looking at Mum , I can quite see that the Paillerons might scatter as far as they could .
A delightful exhibition ! I'm jealous .

Miranda | Miranda's Notebook said...

I can't wait to see this exhibition! And now I shall think of all your words and smile when I see the paintings. xxx

mary said...

She looks like a rather fierce barmaid, doesn't she, Smitonius? I could imagine her in EastEnders.

I think you'll like it, Miranda.