FASHIONED BY SARGENT Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
8 October 2023 – 15 January 2024
In Edith Wharton’s Custom of the Country, a great fuss is made over Mrs. Undine Spragg Marvell as she poses for a portrait by Mr. Claud Walsingham Popple: “She was dressed for the sitting in something faint and shining, above which the long curves of her neck looked dead white in the cold light of the studio; and her hair, all a shadowless rosy gold, was starred with a hard glitter of diamonds.” This fictional description, from the 1913 novel, may well have alluded to works by John Singer Sargent, who flourished as a portrait painter in the 1880s. An intimate exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, takes viewers into those sittings by way of the subjects’ attire: Fashioned by Sargent explores the clothing Sargent painted, complemented by displays of the actual (or closely related) garments in the paintings. Part of that exploration involves learning how Sargent manipulated the clothing to produce a desired effect: these portraits were not of fashion but were, as the title indicates, fashioned by the artist himself.