During the 1890s, Sargent established his reputation as the foremost portrait painter in London. He was immersed in that city's vibrant cultural life and socialized within a large circle of artists. Sargent was extremely influential on the London music scene, promoting the careers of modern composers such as Gabriel Fauré. He regularly attended concerts and theatrical events and, on several important occasions, convinced performers whom he admired to pose for him, including Shakespearean actor Ellen Terry and renowned Spanish dancer La Carmencita. Sargent memorialized these performers on a grand scale usually reserved for aristocratic portraits by the old masters.
The critical acclaim Sargent received for these portraits helped him attract patrons who had strong connections to the art world. Sargent formed close friendships with art dealer Asher Wertheimer and hostess Mrs. Charles Hunter, who, in turn, introduced Sargent to an ever-widening circle of artistic associates.
After 1900, Sargent tired of the demands of formal portrait painting and began refusing commissions. Instead, he offered clients fluid charcoal portraits, which could be executed in a few short sittings.