Sargent and Spain

Sargent, as revealed in Sargent and Spain, the new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, gives us visions that are full of desire and celebration – both documentary and dreamlike.

John Singer Sargent was, in his day, one of the most celebrated artists in Europe; but his obituary in the London Times described him as the exemplar of an age that had passed. He’s always been easy to like, and for this reason, his reputation in the art world suffered for decades. But in our reassessment, we argue that in this post-modern age, there is no longer any hierarchy of genres or styles, and that Sargent deserves his renewed popularity, because he shows, in Wallace Stevens’ phrase, “the essential poem at the center of things”.