John Singer Sargent was born on 12 January 1856 in Florence, Italy and died in London on 14 April 1925. He was an American expatriate who lived most of his life in Europe. His father a skilled medical illustrator and his mother was a fine amateur artist who gave her son sketchbooks and encouraged drawing excursions. He grew up to be a highly literate young man accomplished in art, music and literature. He was also fluent in in French, Italian and German.
He trained in Paris and his early enthusiasm was for landscapes but portrait painting was the best way of promoting a career in art, getting exhibited at the Salon and gaining commissions to earn a living. So he changed direction and went on to become the most successful portrait painter of his era. During his career he created around 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolour paintings as well as countless sketches and charcoal drawings.
In later life he devoted much of his energy to mural painting and working ‘en plein air’.
He once said ” Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend”.