Happy Birthday, John Singer Sargent

Mrs J.W. Crombie, 1898

If you are one of those who enjoy statistical probabilities, then you would agree with me that John Singer Sargent has a high likelihood of appearing in an art gallery.  This was my thought when I entered the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum, Aberdeen, Scotland.  I was not disappointed.

Mrs. J. W. Crombie, an oil on canvas, painted by John Singer Sargent in 1898, radiated grace and elegance.  The notation to the side read “Sargent has caught the serious gaze of the young woman and at the same time has emphasised her femininity. His later portraits, such as this one, display his apparently effortless virtuosity. The dashing brushstrokes, particularly evident in the sparkling rings and brooches and in her feather boa, seem entirely spontaneous.”

I was immediately drawn to this young women who had lived at the turn of the 20th  century.  Her name was Minna (Marina) Watson.  Her husband, John William Crombie, came from a family of woollen manufacturers.  A respected poet and folklorist, he gave up his career as a Director of J. & J Crombie, Ltd, to become a Liberal Party politician. They had two children, a son and daughter.

The painting was completed during the first years of marriage.  John Singer Sargent captured the optimism and determination of youth.  There was also a foreshadowing of strength that would sustain her when her husband died a mere ten years later in 1908.    Their son Eugene, a Captain in the Gordon Highlanders and a WWI war poet, was killed in 1917. With his passing, Mrs. J.W. Crombie learned braille and worked tirelessly to translate many books for the visually impaired.  She was distinguished for her philanthropic endeavours.

Cultivate an ever continuous power of observation. Wherever you are, be always ready to make slight notes of postures, groups and incidents. Store up in the mind… a continuous stream of observations from which to make selections later. Above all things get abroad, see the sunlight and everything that is to be seen.”

John Singer Sargent

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

22 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, John Singer Sargent

    1. Thank you Lori! I have been away from blogging for a few weeks. I’m travelling in Scotland and am in and out of WIFI. How we depend on being connected to a global world. Thank you so much for your visits and comments. Very much appreciated.


    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Dina! I especially like viewing the portait paintings because I always try to imagine the lives of the subjects. What were their hopes, their fears, their joys and tragedies. There are so many stories that are hidden in the folds of history. I am thankful to the artists, writers, poets, philosophers, scientists, etc – for it is through these men and women, we come to understand the story of humanity. I think that when we blog we add our voices to the chorus of history. Many hugs coming your way.


    1. I agree! The background narrative gives so much to the enjoyment of the painting. It is the human connection that comes through in all forms of artistic endeavour. The Aberdeen Gallery provided excellent detail. We stayed until the doors closed and we were gently reminded that the gallery would open the next day…. 🙂


    1. What I find most interesting about John Singer Sargent is that he was able to capture the essence of an individual (remember Madame X). Mrs. Crombie was an amazing individual. The daughter of a MP and a wife of an MP, with access to great wealth. She used her time and wealth wisely.


      1. I agree wholeheartedly. I always get rather confused in a Art Gallery. I want to remember everything but it really is overwhelming when there is so much creative energy around me. 🙂


      2. Yes, I can get giddy in an Art Gallery. Sometimes it is good for a gallery to have contemplation rooms where only one painting is on display at a time.


  1. The quote from Sargeant works brilliantly for writers as well as visual artists. Nice to see you posting so regularly again!


    1. I was thinking the very same thing – this is an universal statement. I find that Sargent had a keen insight and understanding of the interaction between the painter and subject. For example, he said: “Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend.” And yet, he continued to paint many portraits!

      It is good to be back to blogging and connecting. 🙂


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