The Unsettled Legacy of John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent, Charles Stuart Forbes, ca. 1882 or ca. 1889, oil on canvas
John Singer Sargent, Charles Stuart Forbes, ca. 1882 or ca. 1889, oil on canvas (courtesy of the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, Gift of Virginia Steele Scott Foundation, image © Courtesy of the Huntington)

Peter Malone reviews Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on view through October 4, 2015.

Malone writes that the show "is an opportunity to reassess the relationship between Sargent’s skill and his decision to retain a fidelity to nature that was in the last decades of the 19th century becoming understandably discredited by the sentimentality of official Salon painting. And it comes at just the right moment, because we have reached a point in our postmodern tangles where an unprecedented lack of skill, particularly among painters, is severely limiting the possibilities of a medium that ought to be as alive and as fluid as contemporary music. What’s needed is a fresh look at the work of painters like Sargent, who embody that crucial moment in art history just before things began to change so rapidly."