John Singer Sargent

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A Short Art History Lesson Explores the Realistic Impressionism of John Singer Sargent

March 30, 2023

Grace Ebert

A new video from Evan Puschak, the creator behind the Nerdwriter YouTube channel, delves into the uniquely blended style of the American painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). Described by Kottke as “realism through impressionism,” Sargent’s approach centers on accurately capturing the tonal value of a scene, the spectrum of light to dark, rather than on faithful depictions of objects, figures, or shapes. “Everywhere you look,” Puschak says, “you see his supremely confident looseness, a kind of painting you maybe wouldn’t think to associate with a realistic representation of the world. And yet that’s exactly the final effect—a realism that is somehow more true than finely detailed painting.” Watch the short art history lesson above to learn more about Sargent’s training, work, and process and how “the impressions of light and color were his subjects.”


Details of “Nanchaloir” (1911)

Detail of “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” (1885-1886)

“Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” (1885-1886)