Call for Papers
In 1910 Walter Sickert penned an article titled ‘Sargentolatry’ that addressed the fervour surrounding John Singer Sargent as an artist and tastemaker. Using the language of religious devotion, Sickert writes of the ‘prostration before [Sargent] and all his works’ by the British art press, the effect this adulation had on other artists working in this period, and how this sense of complacency was bad for both critics and artists alike. Often, this article has been misidentified with the title ‘Sargentology’ removing the dogmatic tinge of the original, and focusing instead on a study of the work and life of Sargent as a distinct entity within the field of art criticism and the history of art. In the last decades of the twentieth century, however, complicity within this complacency has crept back into Sargent studies. Sargentology has veered back into Sargentolatry, leaving in its infallible wake a dearth of innovation with regard to Sargent scholarship akin to the state of art criticism challenged by Sickert in 1910.
What has been lost to scholarship, however, in this transition from ‘-ology to ‘-olatry’ is primary material that shows an altogether different side of Sargent. Take, for example, a 1927 description from Vernon Lee, written to commemorate Sargent after his death in 1925. In this text, she writes thoughtfully regarding the heady days of their youth, recalling with sincerity a more complex and esoteric Sargent than the one known to current studies.
Mysterious, uncanny, a wizard, serpent, sphinx; strange, weird, curious. Such, at all events, were the adjectives, the comparisons, with which we capped each other, my friend John and I…
Curious. That was the dominant adjective in John’s appreciations, perpetually recurrent during his youth, pronounced with a sort of lingering undefinable aspirate which gave it well, a curious meaning of its own, summing up that instinct for the esoteric, the more-than-meets-the-eye, which plays so subtly through his audaciously realistic work, so that, for instance, in the Spanish Dancers, the Shoeing of the Ox, the Smoke of Ambergris, are turned into incantations, and Carnation Lily into some sweet religious vigil before an unseen altar.
Sargent as an art collector and connoisseur, including his involvement in the acquisition of paintings for major collections or his donations to major museums.
Sargent’s Orientalist/Exoticist Images – this can also include images he executed of those considered ‘oriental’ or ‘other’, including his Jewish sitters.
Sargent’s images of children and childhood
Sargent’s and fashion/costume
Sargent and gender
Sargent’s Reception: To include his exhibition venues, any aspects of his criticism, the prejudice to his reputation post 1925, as well as his reception outside of more typical nations such as Britain, France and the United States. Or general analysis of any previously held Sargent exhibitions throughout history.
Sargent’s symbolism and allusion (or lack thereof), or any alternate methods of visual ‘reading’.
Sargent and the Old Masters: such as, but not limited to, Velazquez, Hals, Reynolds, Gainsborough and Lawrence.
Sargent’s depictions of hands
Sargent in pop culture: To include the use of his art in advertisements, fashion photography, celebrity culture, or imagery and magazines in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries
Sargent and the queer, homosocial, or homosexual.
Sargent in France - his relationship with major and minor French artists, gallery owners, and authors.
Review of any major or minor Sargent books and biographies, especially in light of how they have aided or hindered the longevity of Sargent’s career to date.
We are seeking to create new ground for Sargent studies, while looking to pull together a network of Sargent scholars, old and new, that has never before been assembled. As the aim of this conference is to bring about new scholarship and question prevailing methodologies in Sargent studies, it is important that all submissions are rooted in the principle of novel approach. We intend to break fresh ground for Sargent studies in regards to both the man and his work, to take risks and to bring different perspectives on often trodden roads. In the words of Edwin Blashfield, writing on the cause of Sargent’s death, we consider merely that although there is an end to the man himself, ‘of his influence there is no end that can be perceptible us’. Therefore, it is in the spirit of Sargent, as the man, the myth, and to some, the monstrosity, that we are seeking unique submissions with the objective of viewing Sargentology in new and alternative lights.