The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit - "Sargent's Daughters" Book

John Singer Sargent is one of my all time favorite painters. There are too many of his paintings I enjoy studying to call any one of them my "favorite". However the one painting of his that has intrigued me, (and millions of other people) more than any other is "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit".

"The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit", 1882, oil on canvas,
just over 87x87 inches, by John Singer Sargent

How could a painting that we see today as a masterpiece, have once been criticized as "four corners and a void"? What is it about Sargent's depiction of these four Victorian-era children that seems so haunting to us today?

If you've looked at this painting for any length of time, and your a fan of Sargent, I suggest you pick up the book "Sargent's Daughters, the biography of a painting" by Erica Hirshler who is a curator for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - the museum where the painting lives.

The book gives about as much detail as can be given about the painting itself, and covers a wide range of additional information too. Everything from biographical information on Sargent and his relationship with the Boits, to the critics reaction to the piece, along with brief bios of the girls themselves.

I really enjoyed reading about the entire era of the late 1800s to early 1900s and how people's perception of art, along with their tastes and lifestyles, evolve over time. The surge in appreciation for John Singer Sargent’s work has been going on since the mid 1970s. The book recounts and quotes some of the critical psychoanalysis of this particular painting that has happened since that time and it’s real interesting and sometimes laughable to read.

Self portrait, oil on canvas- John Singer Sargent

Unfortunately the questions that can never be answered by this book or any other, are the intangible ones such as, ‘why was this painting created in the first place?’, and ‘Why did Sargent choose such an unconventional composition?’ and ‘Does the fact that the subjects are so unrelated have an inner meaning?’.

Over the next post or so I’ll babble on about this painting, and comment on some of those intangibles among other things.


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