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Old 02-05-2003, 09:06 PM   #1
SB Wang SB Wang is offline
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Did Sargent make a mouth wrong?




Although John Singer Sargent is a great artist and my favorite, I have a question about one of his masterpieces, "Portrait of Daughters of Mrs. and Mr. Asher Wertheimer"-- The mouth of the lady on the left looks awry. Can anyone help me on this issue?

薩金特作嘴錯了嗎?


雖然約翰.薩金特是一個偉大的藝術家,我最喜歡的,我有一個問題,他的一個傑作,
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Old 02-05-2003, 10:41 PM   #2
Cynthia Daniel Cynthia Daniel is offline
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Here is the portrait.
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Old 02-05-2003, 10:58 PM   #3
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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It seems more bemused, or "wry," than "awry" to me. Because I see the same quality in the sister's mouth, I'm happy to assume that it's a family trait. And it seems to me that capturing it has lent "personality" to the portrait. It's difficult to look at these expressions and not wonder what these women are thinking.
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Old 02-05-2003, 11:16 PM   #4
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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I do see is that the mouth in question is asymetrical. But I assume that is the way she looked. It does not appear to me as if Sargent's drawing was outside of the range of "anatomical correctness."

SB Wang, I went to your web site and saw your work. I am very impressed and know that you have a trained eye. It could be that I would need to see a closeup of this in order to confirm what you are seeing in this painting.
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Old 02-06-2003, 12:26 AM   #5
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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The sense that I first had of the feature pointed out here seems to echo in many published comments about the painting as exhibiting a playfulness, sensuality (apparently one of Betty
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Old 02-06-2003, 12:50 PM   #6
Timothy C. Tyler Timothy C. Tyler is offline
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Families

Some families have traits (like smiling on one side more than the other-the right side in this case). I'll bet the client was delighted that Sargent caught such a trait. As noted both girls have that feature. You can assume that what Sargent saw and painted was spot on.

Too many portaits are careful and generic and miss these very delicate things that RING of that person sitting before the artist.
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Old 02-06-2003, 09:40 PM   #7
Marvin Mattelson Marvin Mattelson is offline
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Sargent said that a portrait is a painting which has something wrong with the mouth.
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Old 02-07-2003, 10:36 AM   #8
Timothy C. Tyler Timothy C. Tyler is offline
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Also

When one client actually said those words to him about her mouth in the painting, he said, "oh, a little thing like that - you can fix it when you get home." I love that!
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Old 02-07-2003, 08:37 PM   #9
Steven Sweeney Steven Sweeney is offline
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Because of course we'll never know exactly what Sargent's intentions were -- unless there's a "letters to Theo" type of collection lying about somewhere, discussing the particulars -- in executing this or that feature in one of his portraits, my vote remains in favor of taking the painting to be as intended, that the mouth is not "wrong" but is perceptively, playfully, brilliantly "right".

That's just my uninformed take on it, based on observation of the work. I of course wasn't present and have no idea what Sargent might have said or had in mind at the time he was painting, whatever the legend and lore. I like to think that he had a bit of a wry grin himself as he placed Betty's mouth "just so" and saw that he'd captured her personality with even such slight, but deftly executed, detail. And even if he altered or exaggerated slightly what he saw to create that effect, I personally don't regard the result as therefore "wrong", but (though perhaps inscrutably) "right."
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Old 02-11-2003, 07:02 PM   #10
SB Wang SB Wang is offline
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Betty defends Betty

Thank you all! Thank you, Karin!
Part of this is caused by optical illusion, I think. As Betty Edwards said: "I believe that skewing of the features happens because the student sees that the head is tipped but then fits the features into the most familiar pattern: upright and parallel to the edges of the paper". ("Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain", pp.144-145).

But if professional artists found that mouth looks odd, "wry" or "asymertrical", how can a layman see it in the corrective way, which Betty taught.
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