Portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw by John Singer Sargent

The portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw by John Singer Sargent is an oil on canvas painting depicting the wife of Sir Andrew Noel Agnew, 9th Baronet. The painting was commissioned in 1892 and is deemed to be one of Sargent’s masterpieces. It is characterized by its high-key palette, precise brushwork, and its expression of the sitter’s personality. Lady Agnew is portrayed in a languid pose, her face almost schematic yet nuanced with slight departures that lend her personality. Her eyes are calm, and her hand grips the chair, adding a sense of tension to the painting.

John Singer Sargent was lauded when the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1893 and subsequent exhibitions, earning him further acclaim as one of the leading portraitists of his time.

Portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1865-1932) by John Singer Sargent, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lady Agnew (born Gertrude Vernon) was born in 1865, the daughter of the Hon. Gowran Vernon and granddaughter of Robert Vernon, 1st Baron Lyveden. She married Sir Andrew Noel Agnew, 9th Baronet of Lochnaw Castle in Wigtownshire in 1889. She is best known for her portrait painted by John Singer Sargent in 1892, which launched her as a celebrity figure in high society.

According to National Galleries Scotland, “Lady Agnew is shown seated in a Louis XVI chair against the backdrop of a Chinese silk hanging, both of which were standard props in Sargent’s studio. She is reported to have been of frail health; she recovered slowly from a severe bout of influenza in 1890 and was apparently still convalescing and suffering from exhaustion when she sat for Sargent, which may account for her slightly ghostly pallor in the painting.”

During the summer of 2014 National Galleries Scotland asked visitors to the galleries to share their thoughts about one of our most popular paintings, Lady Agnew of Lochnaw by John Singer Sargent. Phill Jupitus is perhaps her most ardent admirer, and talked openly to us about his personal connection with this celebrated picture.

Published by Rebecca Budd

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

29 thoughts on “Portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw by John Singer Sargent

  1. simply stunning , Lady Agnes of Lochnaw portrait captures her beauty and grace in a remarkable way. I can only imagine how captivating she must have been in person.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so. much for joining Lady Agnew, John Singer Sargent and me at the National Galleries Scotland. I agree – she must have been a remarkable individual. Your visit and comments are very much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your blog has captured my attention with its interesting content. In a recent travel to Edinburgh I saw this portrait … I couldn’t help but fall in love with it!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. She is a beauty of her day. I’ll bet she is more beautiful than the painting, which is spectacular.
    As photography was in existence, I just had to look see if there was a photo of her. I found only 1, but she sure sat for a lot of paintings.
    Thank you, Rebecca!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am delighted that you joined me at the National Galleries Scotland. I believe that the success of this painting added to Lady Agnew’s prestige and notoriety, but there were rumors of financial difficulties when the family tried to sell the painting in 1922 to the Frick Collection. The sale never went through. I understand that she passed in 1932 after a long illness. In fact, I also read somewhere that she may not have been well when she sat for her portrait. Hence her ethereal elegance.

      Is this the photograph you found? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Agnew_of_Lochnaw#/media/File%3AGertrude_Vernon.jpg

      She was very beautiful.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes! And Yes, she was beautiful. Over 100 years ago, and women did not vote, yet.
        It’s only 100 years in the history of man, yet, OMG what a hundred years.
        All the inventions, social movements, arts… and unfortunately ….wars.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Her expression and pose captured my attention immediately, Rebecca. It’s so relaxed and almost seductive/daring. Not what I expect from formal portraits in the late 1800s. I love the asymmetrical features on her face too. That expression is entrancing. Great share.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am delighted that you enjoyed meeting Lady Agnew, Diana. I think that John Singer Sargent tested the boundaries. Think of the hubbub that Madame X created in Paris. I believe that he captured the personality and charm of the people he painted. He portrayed Lady Agnew as courageous and determined – her humour and joy came through as well.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. The eyes, the eyes, the eyes! ! The details in this painting are extraordinary, however the eyes themselves tell an important story! The painting has many details, Scotland should be very proud of this painting and the article that gives details! I read this article several times, giving time for me to digest details of the beautiful and stylish dress, hair style and expression in the eyes. I wonder how many yards of the beautiful fabric were used to give such a lovely finish! ! The lady is beautiful, but it takes a long look at that dress to realize just how unusual it is–it just floats around to give the subject extra beauty! 1

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for joining me at the National Galleries Scotland, Robbie. The Lady Agnew painting is considered to be one of John Singer Sargent’s most successful portraits. Lady Agnew was made famous by this portrait. John Singer Sargent had a marvelous way of infusing life into his portraits.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. There is no paint stroke not to admire here, from corner to corner. Other than that stunning dress [frills, bows, ribbons…], the chair fabric, the wall, he has captured brilliantly her beauty, as she is perfectly relaxed. There is a very special look to people after they’ve overcome a painful health issue. The exhaustion that comes after, loosens everything and reveals a person as they really are. It is amazing how he’s captured that look and special kind of calm. I’m in awe every time I see this painting. Thank you, Rebecca! Many hugs your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have no idea how an artist can capture eyes that way. I love the use of color in this one as well, Rebecca. I wonder if his exposure to so many cultures helped him see both the universal and unique in each face. Your Friday art classes are very informative!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I believe that you are spot on, Mary Jo. I have read that John Singer Sargent’s travels gave him the opportunity to observe different lighting and color schemes, which he incorporated into his artwork. As a result, he was able to create paintings that were both vivid and realistic. I just discovered paintings from his travels in Morocco. Stunning use of colour. I think that he was able to capture the nuance of personalities, as well. I must look into that thought…. And now off to find another rabbit hole. Hugs!!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, Liz – his style was compelling. While he is known for his technical skill, attention to detail, and vibrant color palette, etc. I believe that he infused a sense of movement and energy into his paintings. I felt like Lady Agnew would soon reach our for a cup of tea. I smiled when the security guard said, “She’s not here…”. It was as if Lady Agnew was capable of walking out the doors of the National Galleries.

      Thank you for joining me on my art quest.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Many thanks for joining me at National Galleries Scotland. I love our virtual trips – no jet lag. Some say that if you view an artist’s paintings, then you will know the artist. For me, it is about the friendships that an artist forms over the years. John Singer Sargent had many friends including Claude Monet, James McNeill Whistler, the British painter Edward Poynter and Henry James. I understand that Henry James wrote a novel based on Sargent’s life, which I haven’t read, but I found it on Gutenberg press: “The Madonna of the Future”. His other friends included writers Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Browning, the sculptor Auguste Rodin and the art critic Roger Fry, who wrote several essays about Sargent’s work.

      Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to sit in a Paris cafe overhearing the conversations of these friends at the next table.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I read that John Singer Sargent left France in 1907 for a variety of reasons. Primarily, he had become increasingly frustrated with the Parisian art scene, which he found too restrictive and limited in its scope. But I think the real reason was the scandal that arose because of his portrait of Madame X, but that is only my opinion. There are so many interesting stories held in the brushstrokes of a painting.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Those eyes follow us, don’t they, Colleen. Even when we look at Lady Agnew on a computer screen. John Singer Sargent was brilliant with the use of colours. I especially appreciated his use of muted tones in the background. To me, it gives the painting a sense of grandeur that bestows magical qualities on Lady Agnew.

      Many thanks for joining me at the National Galleries, in Edinburgh.

      Liked by 3 people

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