Born: Dublin, Ireland 1848
Died: Cornish, New Hampshire 1907
Jaboeuf et Bezout Fondeurs
bronze relief 50 x 34 in. (126.9 x 86.4 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Rose Pitman Hughes
Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, East Wing
Violet Sargent came from Europe to New York in the company of her brother, the portraitist John Singer Sargent. At a party given at William Merritt Chase's studio, she met Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who asked to create her portrait. Her brother agreed, promising in return to paint the sculptor's son, Homer. This relief panel is slightly curved, so that it captures the light and the bronze takes on different colors.
Saint-Gaudens made unusual choices to create this work. This was part of an informal exchange of tokens between artists, but the sculptor gave the portrait the monumental and timeless gravity of a public memorial. The sculptor chose not to give Violet a conventional, formal pose, but caught her in the act of humming a pitch and tuning her guitar, as though she would shortly sing for her friends. Like an ancient Greek grave marker, this relief captures a fleeting and informal moment in Violet's life. It compresses into one image a love of music, learning, and art that characterized the circle of friends and fellow artists around the Sargents.
Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006
Performing arts - music - guitar
Portrait female - Sargent, Viola
sculpture - relief
metal - bronze
About Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Born: Dublin, Ireland 1848 Died: Cornish, New Hampshire 1907