(b Florence, 12 Jan. 1856; d London, 15 Apr. 1925). American painter, chiefly famous as the outstanding society portraitist of his age: Rodin called him ‘the van Dyck of our times’. He was the son of prosperous and cultured parents who had settled in Europe, and he had an international upbringing and career: indeed, he was once described as ‘an American born in Italy, educated in France, who looks like a German, speaks like an Englishman, and paints like a Spaniard’ (William Starkweather, ‘The Art of John S. Sargent’, Mentor, Oct. 1924). His ‘Spanishness’ refers to his deep admiration for Velázquez, for although he was encouraged to paint directly by his teacher Carolus-Duran, with whom he studied in Paris 1874–6, the virtuoso handling of paint that characterized his style derived more particularly from Old Masters such as Velázquez and Hals (he visited Madrid in 1879 and Haarlem in 1880 to study their work).

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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