NMAA Director's Choice
painting: Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler by John Singer Sargent

Visual Echoes

detail of paintingSome pictures are fun just to look at, even before you know anything about them. Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler, by Sargent, is full of visual echoes and effects that reward close looking.

Everything above the "horizon line" of the sofa back is symmetrical and calm, in a shallow space. The perfect oval of Miss Chanler's head is exactly centered, and it's balanced by the stable verticals and horizontals of two framed objects. Her eyes, flanking the perpendicular of her nose and mouth, meet ours in a fixed stare. Who will blink first?

Pictured: John Singer Sargent, Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler, 1893; oil, 49 3/8 x 40 1/2 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Chanler A. Chapman.


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