John Singer Sargent

Portrait of Léon Delafosse 
By
John Singer Sargent
1899

This painting hangs in the Seattle Museum of Art. It is a lovely painting a little unlike most of Sargent's portraits in that is was not commissioned. Sargent was a great admirer of the composer and pianist Léon Delafosse.  The two of them became good friends. The painting was inscribed, in French, "to M. Léon Delafosse in fond remembrance."

Not knowing who this Delafosse was, you now see the underlining description of him as a pianist in the portrait. The mostly black use of color contrasted only by his face and hand. It just about shouts 'piano'!

Of course Delafosse is a decadent especially in the matter of neck-ties-but he is a very intelligent little Frenchman, and a composer and excellent pianist, who is probably going over to America in a year's time, so I sent his portrait over as a forerunner.

—John Singer Sargent, to Isabella Stewart Gardner, on Léon Delafosse, 1899

Cosmopolitanism has been one of the keynotes of Sargent's life. "An American, born in Italy, educated in France, who looks like a German, speaks like an Englishman, and paints like a Spaniard," is a phrase that largely sums him up.

—Critic William Starkweather, writing about Sargent in the journal The Mentor, 1924
 

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