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The Birthday Party (Fête Familiale)

John Singer Sargent American

Not on view

In this intimate and moody interior, Sargent depicts French artist Albert Besnard (1849–1934) and his wife, sculptor Charlotte Dubray (1855–1931), celebrating the birthday of their eldest child, Robert (1881/2–1914). The overhanging light and the glow of the birthday candles illuminate the face of the young boy, but the mother is the dominant figure in the foreground, while the father, relegated to the background, is virtually faceless. In his own work, Besnard espoused what he called the "environmental" portrait, using his sitters’ surroundings to represent character and "express their relationship with the world in which they live." Here, the crimson walls, decorative wall coverings, and Asian-inspired lampshade suggest the family’s refinement and aesthetic impulses.

The Birthday Party (Fête Familiale), John Singer Sargent (American, Florence 1856–1925 London), Oil on canvas, American

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