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Teen Summer Studio: Portraiture students paint from live models in the Met's studio classroom

Sargent for a Week

Teen Summer Studio: Portraiture students paint live models in the Met's studio classroom. All photographs by Sasha Smith

For me, summer is usually the time to lie around, relax, and get my tan on, but, fortunately, this year was different; I decided to spend my time doing something a little more fruitful. When I saw that the Met was offering free summer classes, I happily signed up for Teen Summer Studio: Portraiture because the class revolved around the special exhibition Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends (on view through October 4, 2015). I had never taken a class at the Met before, and I have always loved John Singer Sargent's work, so I jumped at the opportunity to study it in detail.

Teens gather around as teaching artist Jackie Cedar demonstrates painting a live model

Our teacher, Jackie Cedar, and her teaching assistant, Alayna Wiley, were an amazing team. They really encouraged the various artistic processes of each student, which allowed all of us to flourish under their tutelage. On the first day, we played icebreakers and made blind contour drawings that left my friends and me giggling at how weird they looked.

Students discuss their blind contour drawings in Summer Sketching, another teen program this past summer

On the second day, we went on an amazing guided tour of Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends led by Assistant Research Curator Stephanie L. Herdrich. Stephanie talked about Sargent's attention to detail within the many portraits on display: from the way he painted hands with such grace that it seems as if they might reach out and touch you at any minute to how he captured movement and texture in clothing. I think this is best exhibited in Sargent's portrait of Mrs. Hugh Hammersley. The way he captured her dress makes me feel like, if I were to reach out and touch it, I would feel the soft, velvety material underneath my fingertips.

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856–1925). Mrs. Hugh Hammersley, 1892. Oil on canvas; 81 x 45 1/2in. (205.7 x 115.6cm) Framed: 91 1/2 x 52 5/8 x 4 3/4 in. (232.4 x 133.7 x 12.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Douglass Campbell, in memory of Mrs. Richard E. Danielson, 1998 (1998.365)

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856–1925). Mrs. Hugh Hammersley, 1892. Oil on canvas; 81 x 45 1/2 in. (205.7 x 115.6 cm) Framed: 91 1/2 x 52 5/8 x 4 3/4 in. (232.4 x 133.7 x 12.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Douglass Campbell, in memory of Mrs. Richard E. Danielson, 1998 (1998.365)

Stephanie also spoke about how Sargent called on many different influences and inspirations over the years to create his work, which made me think that he was stylistically sort of like a Pokémon; his style was constantly evolving until it reached its final form.

In the final two days of the program, we created portraits of live models. We began by sketching with paint on canvas instead of using a pencil, which was a technique that Sargent used. Although I was hesitant at first, it was actually a really fun process to try.

A teen capturing details of the model's expression and gesture

All in all, I enjoyed my week at the Met, and I know I'll be back next year. I think this is the start of a new tradition: no more lazy summer days for me.

Aminata's sketch, inspired by Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends

Get involved, and start your own tradition with monthly free Saturday Sketching sessions for teens!



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