After a 14 hour trip by car to Atlanta for this year's American Portrait Society Conference, tiredness and migraine, I have all but forgetten that this year's event was going to be a celebration of the life and work of American portrait artist John Singer Sargent.
When three days later on the night of the gala and awards ceremony (this s ianother story that deserves a different blog) I was greatly pleased to see at the podium the writer and speaker Mr Richard Ormond, Singer Sargent great nephew and his closest relative.
A few years back I have read a book about Singer Sargent by Mr Ormond (wonderful book by the way) but by now I have forgetten the connection between the two. That night Mr Ormond with his charming British accent and dry sense of humor kept me hung to his every word. That night the assistants and I were shown never seen pictures of Sargent in black and white during the last years of his life,also of Mr Ormond's father and of his young brothers and himself when they were children. Beautiful images in full color of the artist's later works reminiscent of
impressionism but Oh so ligth, fluid and vibrant like fresh watercolors with merging figures that capture the movement and life in Sargent's unique way.
During his speech he mentioned the close friendship between the writer Robert Louis Stevenson and Singer Sargent. It seems that Sargent was allow to come and go freely at Stevenson's home and witness his tantrums even capturing RLS in one of his bad moods (above) for which he was well known: Nobody could have said no to Sargent during that moment in his career even the famous writer! The painting is dated 1885 nine years before Stevenson's dead at 44.
We were also shown pictures of Sargent while painting with other artists like Monet and his constant companions the married couple Wilfrid and Jane de Glehn. Also worth mentioning was one that touched my heart: One of Singer Sargent's old tool box full of dried oils, paint stained rags, a dirty palette knife and brushes stiff with dry oil paint. It reminded me that this is the only thing left tangible of an artist's life after their passing (even the most famous ones) besides their artwork.
After enjoying greatily the evening and his speech it came the moment that Mr Ormond was presented by a 3/4 body length portrait of himself by the society, he gracefully thanked the painter and the society and praised the artwork's quality however questioned the likeness. I was too far away to see it myself but by the images projected on the big screen I had to agreed with him. But once again the art of portrait is not as easy as some people think and even scorn at, usually the ones with no skill whatsoever and no training I must say.
The next day (Sunday, our last day at the conference) our trip to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta was on its way and something I very much was looking forward. I have learned that the great Daniel Greene and his beautiful wife artist Wendy Caporale wiould be joining us so I was over the roof despite my tiredness! Then while walking through the museum floors, I saw a familiar figure. Could it this be him? I said to myself. I was frozen with excitement when I saw Richard Ormond's lonely figure admiring an antique vase so I quietly took my cell phone out with shaking hands and I began to snap away but before I knew it he turned around and I snapped the last one as I told him: Thank you, Mr Ormond! For lack of anything better to say, him int he other hand taken by surprise said: "Oh, well..." and nothing more.
In my mind I could just have finished the sentence for him: "... you didn't give me much of a chance, did you?" with that charming British accent of his!