I saw this painting in person when I was in New York a few years back for a show of my own work. Certainly I have seen it before that, in many magazines and art books. However to see John Singer Sargent’s work in person, to be humbled by it’s size, and awed by the amazing way that it overshadows everything else in the gallery which holds it, is the reason why so many art instructors tell you that you should go to museums and see work for yourself. Because seeing the work in person gives you a whole new appreciation for the creation of it.
This painting is powerful in so many ways. The flawless execution, the way that it demands your attention, and yet with Madame Gautreau looking away from you as if you were not even worth her notice, you get a shiver of tension looking at it too. It is the work of master. And like so many masters it was ahead of it’s time and Sargent was unable to sell it for many years until he sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art saying “I suppose it’s the best thing I have ever done.”
After seeing it in person, it’s hard to argue that fact.