John Singer Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends

National Portrait Gallery

Written by Anna Beketov

Gabriel Fauré and Mrs Patrick Campbell, 1898. Private Collection

Gabriel Fauré and Mrs Patrick Campbell, 1898. Private Collection

The vibrant retrospective of the works of John Singer Sargent, Portraits of Artists and Friends, offers a well-dressed feast for the eyes. Showcasing the influences on the society painter of Impressionism and contemporary portrait painting, the exhibition provides a window into Sargent’s vitality. It reveals the artist as a master of culture, a key figure among the gliteratti of music, theatre, literature and art in the late 19th and early 20thcenturies.  Sargent may have been criticised for his limited imagination, but the intimacy of his portraits and the originality of his settings, leaves little doubt as to his talent and erudition.  

 

The exhibition offers a suitably curated geographic tour of Sargent’s artistic life, tracking his progress from his early years in Paris, through America, London and rural parts of Europe. There is much variation in the style and character of the portraits but perhaps most notable are those ‘en plein air’, a style of which Sargent was an early adopter. Away from the domestic interiors of their country manors and lavish town houses, his patrons appear in the public sphere in a fashion typical of the modern manner.

 

If Sargent embraces this Impressionist ideal, the exhibition additionally exposes hints of Cubism which bely his reputation for conservative painting techniques. A fine example is Rehearsal of Pas de Loup Orchestra at the Cirque d’Hiver (click here to see the artwork). In this wondrously abstract piece, brush strokes appear at first no more than scattered white lines, but on closer inspection trumpets, saxophones and batons emerge from the chaos. The piece performs to the viewer, and Sargent’s role as an enthusiastic musician with close ties to the contemporary music scene becomes apparent. Musicians Fauré, Henschnel and Delafosse pose for him, the closeness of artist and his subjects visible in the way their gaze leaves the canvas. The figures regard the viewer with as much contemplation as we them.

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-GB 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
    
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-right:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0cm;
	line-height:107%;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
      La Carmencita          by John Singer Sargent, 1890 © Musée d’Orsay

La Carmencita by John Singer Sargent, 1890 © Musée d’Orsay

Exhibition-goers can also delight in spotting depictions of Sargent’s fellow artists. Monet, for example, is depicted painting outdoors. The work shown on the easel celebrates the painter, but through it Sargent manifests his own unique style. The theatre too, holds its own. Many of Sargent’s images of stage stars are full-length portraits, yet manage to covey the same sense of intimacy as his head-shots. As if on stage, they act for the viewer. Stunning Carmencita, a renowned Spanish Gypsy Dancer, stands proudly. After agreeing to sit for Sargent it is reported that remaining still was not Carmencita’s forte, and her restless movement is evident in this magnificent painting. Her impressive yellow gown sparkles, the swift brush strokes giving the impression that her skirt, over 100 years later, is still twirling.

The splendid image of Ellen Terry as a late Victorian Lady Macbeth, among the best-known of Sargent’s stage paintings, looms over the exhibition, all flaming red hair and crown held aloft. The exhibition is worth the effort for this alone.

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-GB 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-right:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0cm;
	line-height:107%;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
      Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth      by John Singer Sargent, 1889     © Tate, London

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth by John Singer Sargent, 1889 © Tate, London

The last room is pure escapism, filled with glorious images of Europe in the early nineteen hundreds. Gleaming white Swiss mountains, intricate Italian fountains, sun-drenched picnics and lush fields, all backgrounds for idling figures. Artists paint lazily in the warm afternoon and aristocratic women recline nonchalantly. It’s hard to leave this room, with its heavenly settings, and head out into the 21st century crush of Trafalgar Square.

A perfect way to while away an afternoon, the exhibition offers the glam and the glitz of the Impressionists, an insight into the lives of well-known figures, and precious time out from stresses of today’s world.

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-GB 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-right:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0cm;
	line-height:107%;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
      The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy          by John Singer     Sargent, 1907.     Friends of American Art Collection, 1914.57 © Art     Institute of Chicago

The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy by John Singer Sargent, 1907.

Friends of American Art Collection, 1914.57 © Art Institute of Chicago

Ah, Wilderness! - Eugene O'Neill’s 'Only Comedy'

The Young Vic, Play Directed by Natalie Abrahami

 

Review by Daen Palma Huse

Photography by Johan Persson

George MacKay, Janie Dee and Martin Marquez in Ah, Wilderness at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

George MacKay, Janie Dee and Martin Marquez in Ah, Wilderness at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

Eugene O’Neill was born in 1888 in New York, the son of Irish actor James O’Neill, and spent much of his early youth touring with him, being raised in a very Catholic setting. Despite having endured the untimely deaths and illness of loved ones, alcoholism, and several suicide attempts as well as an initial uncertainty of what to attain in both his professional and private life, O’Neill nevertheless became an extraordinary dramatist. His celebrated works include the play, Ah, Wilderness!, considered to be his only comedy and a lighter prelude to the much darker Long Day’s Journey into Night.

Ah, Wilderness! is set in the Miller’s small-town family home in 1906 and premiered on Broadway in 1933. The costume and stage design in Abrahami’s production, however, suggest a more ambiguous setting. The story centres around the teenage Richard Miller, played by the fantastic George MacKay, touching on many issues including alcoholism, love, regret amongst family members and Richard’s own youthful escapades with an obsession for poetry and writing which takes centre stage in the play. O’Neill’s play is best understood when looking at the playwright’s own life. While Richard’s obsession could be translated to other interests if set in a different time – much of the character of Richard perhaps stems from O’Neill’s own youth in a very religious family surrounding, being sent to catholic schools exclusively until pushing to go to a non-religious school. O’Neill’s own youth might be best described as a childlike search for purpose, which very well reflects in his stage character Richard.

Members of the company in Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

Members of the company in Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

Richard is essentially portrayed as the young idealist of the family. He faces disapproval at home because of his love of Henrik Ibsen, Oscar Wilde and other ideological writers, whose works were publicly condemned and burned in Germany the same year the play was first shown in 1933. A tension caused by conflicting ideas in O’Neill’s own family is translated here. The actors in the Young Vic’s production portray this tension well within the familiar setting of the Miller’s home. While the family home suggests an intimate, warm shelter for its members, existing tension gains prominence in conversations and a surreal element is added by the unusual set design.

Stage designer Dick Bird, who last year designed Kate Bush's show Before the Dawn, has created a surreal stage design for this production, complete with sand dunes and over-dimensional doorways. Bird says that he was inspired by the Namibian ghost town of Kolmanskop, which was inhabited by German miners at the beginning of the 20th century but was soon deserted and the houses abandoned to be filled by desert sand, which has created an extraordinarily beautiful landscape. O’Neill’s setting is ‘flooded’ by this sand as a dreamy metaphor for the passage of memory and time.

Ashley Zhangazha and Susannah Wise in Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

Ashley Zhangazha and Susannah Wise in Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

Despite initial health and safety concerns for the actors, the surreal character of the ‘sandscape’ nevertheless reflects the poetic nature of young Richard's character and allows the audience to delve into the subconscious dimension that this play evokes. Quite early on in the play, books are dug out of the sand, perhaps as a metaphor for the hidden stories behind what seems to be an average family of the time.

Directed by Natalie Abrahami, and featuring refined performances by George MacKay as Richard Miller, Janie Dee as Essie Miller, Martin Marquez as Nat Miller and David Annen as David McComber, the Young Vic has staged a thought-provoking play that is not often shown.

During his life Eugene O’Neill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and won the Pulitzer Prize four times, firstly for Beyond the Horizon, his first full-length play which opened on Broadway in 1920, and lastly for Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which was awarded posthumously, and is closely based on his family. 

 

Visit www.youngvic.org for more information on upcoming plays - including Nick Gill's adaptation of The Trial by Franz Kafka which is opening later this month.

The Glass Protégé

The Park Theatre, Play written by Dylan Costello and Directed by Matthew Gold

 

Review by Daen Palma Huse

Photography by Krisztian Sipos

Photography by Krisztian Sipos

Photography by Krisztian Sipos

Set against the backdrop of a 1940s Hollywood movie studio surroundings and the main character’s bedroom some forty years later, the relatively plain lighting and somewhat simple stage design makes the viewer feel ever so close to the play’s characters. Evoking sensuality and familiarity, we are guided through a romanticised and possibly one-sided view of a bygone era of Hollywood. That said, the play does not primarily aim at offering food for thought in a political or dramatic sense, but rather sensibly tells a very personal story of love and affection, guilt and secrecy, passion and desire as well as intrigue, scandal and manipulation.

The story is told through the main character, Patrick Glass, who comes to Hollywood as a young British actor. He seems innocent and not quite familiar with the business reality of the biggest film industry in the 1940s. Slowly but surely getting more familiar he is falling for his fellow star Jackson (who, played by Alexander Hulme, exudes the air of a film star of the time in style, enunciation and gesture).

Young starlet Candice, who offers a helping hand in guiding Patrick through the business at first, tries to trade the information of Pat and Jackson’s secret love affair for greater stardom by committing to a deal with Nella Newman, who in turn lets Candice fall flat and causes her downfall.

Nella Newman is the antagonist playing a cutthroat journalist from the so fittingly named newspaper The Inquisitor. She embodies the media and press looming over the made-up stars of Hollywood. Her character, played by Mary Steward, stands out as a particularly strong character in the play as well as a main actress in the cast.

Throughout the scope of the play, a sign in the background of the stage continually changed from Hollywood to Hollywoodland and symbolized the jump in time of about forty years between Patrick’s film career as young actor and his older self. A second dimension of the play is added by a young Eastern German girl called Ava who comes to the US to commit to an arranged marriage with Patrick’s son George. In the meantime she is takes care of a considerably older (and grumpier) Pat who eventually builds a closer relationship with Ava, whose grim past is revealed gradually. She finally arranges for Pat to meet again with his long lost love Jackson – but the two shall never meet again.

The actors managed to draw us in with their performances, and the play by Dylan Costello is well thought-out, written and researched. Certainly the play has a lot of potential and stands out in its subject matter and coherent storyline.

 

Visit www.parktheatre.co.uk for more information on upcoming plays.

Cirque Du Soleil

The Royal Albert Hall

 

Review by Daen Palma Huse

Illustration by Emily Vanns

Illustration by Emily Vanns

Illustration by Emily Vanns

The show directed by David Shiner is by no means just an ordinary circus show. The Québécois group “Cirque du Soleil” has a long-standing reputation for putting on the most entertaining and beautifully choreographed performances. With the recent “Kooza” at the Royal Albert Hall, the viewer is invited to dive into a world of wonder and excitement; a surreal dream world filled with acrobatic and theatrical mastery and talent. The stage design reflects this with flowing fabric that allows for imagination - one could see wings or an abstract landscape that magically opens to reveal a pavilion with musicians, out of which the acts appear onto the round stage. 

Two female singers Vedra Chandler and Marie-Pier Guilbault and the band provide the music throughout the show - incredibly beautiful and powerful voices that could fill the rows of the Royal Albert Hall, leaving the audience hungry for more.

While the narrative starts with a naive boy playing, the story quickly assumes a fast pace, evolving into a seemingly unstoppable whirlwind. After a musical number and some acrobatic warm-ups, three contortionists captured the audience with their spell. Pompous confetti gunfire into the audience marks a highlight within the first half of the show, while a jazzy tune and dancers with feather boas open the second half, reminiscent of belle-époque dancers and smoky nightclubs of the 1920s. Throughout the show many musical and visual elements came together and it is quite impossible to place what is seen culturally or stylistically, which is but part of the beauty of the evenings' grand performance. This certainly peaked with the skeleton costumes, possibly inspired by the artistic depictions of skeletons for the Mexican day of the dead.

Illustration by Emily Vanns

Illustration by Emily Vanns


The three fools - played by the trio of Gordon White, Colin Heath and Amo Gulinello - that appear between main acts are joined by a person in a dog costume that raises a leg and urinates across the front row at one point - much to the surprise of the audience. Almost like a Shakespearean stylistic device of metaphorically catapulting the spectator out of the story on stage by an unexpected comical interval (making the surprised theatre-goer ever so aware of the fact that what he or she is seeing is but a play) only drew in the audience more before the next act captured our attention.

Even the simpler appearing act of Yao Deng Bo balancing chairs on top of one another is impeccably well presented and provides an element of calm alongside fast-paced numbers, such as, the hell-wheel with two men running jumping and swinging in the over dimensional wheel.  Another highlight of the show was the three wirewalkers that balanced at a great height and topped off the act by riding bicycles across the wire.

 

Illustration by Emily Vanns

Illustration by Emily Vanns


Impeccably well presented, Cirque Du Soleil shows artistic and athletic mastery at it's best. Every part of the show led over to the next and there is no room for boredom. The longing for plain, old-fashioned circus performances might linger, however, Cirque du Soleil combines traditional and contemporary elements extremely well and can be applauded for yet another stunning performance.

On Defining Beauty

Read about how the classical Greek perception of the human form has shaped today's ideal. A beautiful exhibition at the British Museum illustrates the body in sculpture and art in Greek and Roman times as well as throughout the ages. 

Read More