John Singer and The Male Nudes

May 4, 2016

There is not much known about artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925).  His family took it upon themselves to destroy his entire personal correspondence between  after his death.  What little we know of him is through  his contemporaries and what his biographers have written about him.

                                                               John Singer Sargent 


When I discovered Sargent's male nudes, I was left quite chocked. First because they couldn't have been done nearly hundred years ago, they are fresh and vibrant not exactly of what I would have expected of this legendary artist who's living was made by painting the very proper and very rich ladies of his time. Second that enormous sensuality and vulnerability  that you can only find on a female nude, was pleasantly surprising and new for me.

How about that? I felt an instant connection with him. He was no more a detached historical figure but instead one with a heart, with  a soul and with emotions.

                In my opinion the  most beautiful nuder ever created: "Thomas E McKeller's Study"



I have seen many excellent nudes done by artists from Raphael, to the Colombian artist Dario Morales including the Spanish Joaquin Sorolla. Worth mentioning also is the best  artist in male nudes at  this moment Robert Liberace (yes, the nephew of the famous entertainer Liberace). But Sargent's strike a cord like no others.






           Robert Liberace "Male Study" speaks of strength and cold aesthetics, Sargent's speaks of                                                                              warm intimacy!



The nude study of Thomas E McKeller is a proof of  Sargent's  true personality. It has been written that Sargent met McKeller who was an elevator  operator and bellhop at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston where Sargent resided while working at the Boston Public Library Murals.


It is also  said that Sargent try to disguise the model African-American ancestry but I am of different opinion judging by the pencil drawings done by the artist of Mr McKeller.


            The Framed beauty of Thomas McKeller presently displayed at a museum in Boston, MA


In this blog you can appreciate other examples of his male nudes done of one of his close friends  and of black youths in Florida.



Nobody could make a single stroke count as much as Sargent's, you can easily appreciate it in  this beautiful watercolors, you almost feel the skin glistening in sun and be transported at that very same moment.


                 LESSON No. 1: Make every stroke count! One of Sargent's amazing watercolors



As a side note, Sargent painted 900 oils, 2000 watercolors and countless of pencil sketches. In have pondered many times how much he must have charged for one of his portraits so I assumed around US$5,000 in today's money. Guess what? I wasn't too "far" from the true.


He charged US$5,000 alright buy in 19th century's money equivalent to US$130,000 today. His fee for a charcoal drawing was around $400 (it took him less than 45 minutes to finish  one) around $9,000 today. So my guess is he was a pretty  wealthy man in his lifetime.


                            I feel myself transported on that very moment. Just WOW!


Lastly as a personal note,  my former art teacher, Mary Ekross told me once that during a professional artist's lifetime, he/she will produce around 90-150 pieces of artwork but that only 8 or less will be artistically worth anything. The rest being just garbage. I think in the case of Sargent,  he has nothing to be worry about some of his paintings are being sold for tens of millions. Should be all be that lucky!

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August 16, 2014

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