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Isabella Stewart Gardner

John Singer Sargent American

Not on view

Daring and unconventional, Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840–1924) created one of the great private art collections in America. The inimitable museum bearing her name, housed in a specially built Italian Renaissance style palazzo in Boston, is a testament to her discerning eye and determination. Sargent and Gardner were introduced by their mutual friend Henry James in London in 1886. They became lifelong friends, and she was one of Sargent’s most important American patrons. Gardner admired Madame X and conspired with Sargent to create a similarly progressive work of art. In this provocative portrait, Sargent exploits Gardner’s formidable personality. With her straightforward pose and direct gaze, she has a commanding presence. Her plain décolleté dress is set against a Venetian brocade background, giving her the appearance of a haloed icon. Contemporary viewers in Boston, accustomed to more conventional and flattering portraits, were mystified by Gardner’s boldness.

Isabella Stewart Gardner, John Singer Sargent (American, Florence 1856–1925 London), Oil on canvas , American

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