Good Morning, from Boston!

First impressions; a green leafy canopy of trees, great billowing clouds against a soft blue sky, rows of red brick houses, cobbled passages, the most gracious people…

photo 2

And speaking of whom, you must check out something quite fascinating in progress, a book by William Kuhn —

historical fiction about Isabella Gardner and John Singer Sargent.

Sargent’s portrait of Virginie Gautreau cut short what had, up to then, been a meteoric career. Up until 1884 he was considered an unstoppable young man. Parisian critics denounced the profile as bizarre, even ugly. Her fallen shoulder strap seemed to suggest Madame Gautreau was a fallen woman, a courtesan, a prostitute. Her mother demanded that the portrait be taken down. Sargent put the shoulder strap back up and he made the identity of the sitter anonymous. The portrait became known as “Madame X.” It didn’t do any good. The damage was done. His portrait business dried up. He soon left Paris, which he loved, and with the help of Henry James, tried to re-establish himself in London. He considered giving up painting altogether.

Isabella Gardner enjoyed being provocative. She dared Sargent to get back on his horse in the wake of his Parisian embarrassment. She challenged him to paint her as a Boston version of Madame Gautreau. This is the result, Sargent’s most famous portrait of her, painted in 1887-8.

Isabella_Stewart_Gardner

During its first Boston exhibition this painting also caused a scandal. The low neckline was considered suggestive and indelicate. Mrs. Gardner’s husband asked that it never be exhibited again in his lifetime. Sargent, however, received a rush of American commissions. As for Mrs. Gardner, she successfully affronted Boston’s establishment in a way she always loved to do. It was also the beginning of their friendship, which lasted for almost 40 years…

And if you haven’t yet, pick up a copy of his book; Mrs. Queen Takes the Train — in which Queen Liz bolts palace and family biz on beguiling, and unexpectedly boffo journey…

Soon to be a major Motion Picture!

8 comments

  1. erickeyswriter

    These pictures are giving me a rush of nostalgia… I used to work near the neighborhood these pictures were taken in – I’ll avoid naming the area in case you are concerned. So many memories… I hope you are having a blast!

    • It is enchanting here! Seriously. I love it. Having come from a car culture it is a rush to walk to the market, restaurants, THE BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY…sorry…using my indoor voice…I am over the moon…

      • erickeyswriter

        The BPL is certainly worthy of all caps typing! Be sure to check out The UFood Grill at downtown crossing. The make excellent Bison burgers. Keep your ears open for Stemming John (“Can you spare any change” he’ll say over and over in a voice you will never mistake for anyone else!) and be sure to say hello to Stuart Diamond as he preaches on Boston Common.

  2. George Kaplan

    Look out Boston, Vickie Lester’s in town nd nothing will be the same again! Have a Great Time in a Great City, Queen Vickie.
    Oh, and I LOVE the work of John Singer Sargent! He is probably my Favorite Artist (capital Eff, capital Ay!). Sublime.

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