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Home » News » Company news » John Singer Sargent’s The Lady With the Umbrella: an artist letting his hair down

John Singer Sargent’s The Lady With the Umbrella: an artist letting his hair down

2017-08-07 20:48:44

 This giant come-on of an image, from 1911, shows a more relaxed, experimental side to the great flatterer of Edwardian high society

Part of The Lady With the Umbrella. Photograph: Dani Rovira

Beautiful people

Sargent was the great flatterer of Edwardian high society, famed for his oil portraits of its belles and beaus. Although on familiar territory, this watercolour is clearly the work of an artist letting his hair down.

Clothes make the woman

It is a giant come-on of an image: the supine young woman, who seems to have been swept over by oceans of frothy white lace and satin, while her sexually suggestive, toppled parasol points to her crotch. Closely cropped, her body – an “S” shape that winds to a beautiful and unreadable face – is there to be imaginatively dived into.

Oil and water

The woman has been identified as Sargent’s niece Rose-Marie Ormond. It’s one of many thousands of watercolours he made while taking time out from his heavy roster of commissions in oil.

Liquid days

 

The watercolours show a more experimental side. Created outdoors with a focus on light, they seem rooted in modern Impressionist thinking. Subjects include people one would never associate with the painter, such as blind street musicians or soldiers on the front.

Part of Sargent: The Watercolours, Dulwich Picture Gallery, SE21, to 8 October

Part of Sargent: The Watercolours, Dulwich Picture Gallery, SE21, to 8 October

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