Glamour, Fashion and a Flare for the Dramatic at Tate Britain

Glamour, Fashion and a Flare for the Dramatic at Tate Britain
Sargent and Fashion installation view with Madame X, 1883-84 and Study of Mme Gautreau ,c.1884 at Tate Britain 2024. Photo © Tate (Larina Fernandes)

Alongside dozens of period dresses and accessories, often worn by the artist’s sitter, “Sargent and Fashion” at the Tate Britain exhibits and honors the work of 20th-century artist John Singer Sargent through a remarkable display of his portraits. In collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the exhibition features 60 works, including rare loans and works drawn from Tate and MFA’s extensive collection; of the artist’s representation of fashionable high society at the turn of the decade.

Born in 1856, Sargent was a portrait painter who used fashion and dresses to bring his subjects to life and show their creativity. His aesthetic style focused on the micromanagement of every detail in his works, such as his manipulation of Lady Sassoon in 1907. This particular artwork is at the beginning of the exhibition and it shows a perfect example of Sargent’s aesthetic style. The black taffeta cloak shows perfectly how he pinned wrapped the fabric around his subjects to create drama and flair.

“Sargent and Fashion” employs the legacy of Sargent’s work, which shows the freedom of creativity and expression, defying traditional and social norms of the day through portraiture. Non-commissioned portraits also display Sargent’s creative freedom and going past the limits. A good example is Madam X painted in 1883-4, showing the socialite Virginie Aelie Gatreau with a diamond strap falling from her shoulder. Sargent has also used professional performers, which showcased his love for visual spectacle. He used Carmen Duset Moreno, a Spanish dancer in La Carmencita painted in 1890 and Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth in 1889. Sargent’s work is Mrs Hugh Hammersley, painted in 1892 is another highlight. It shows the subject in a bright red dress with a golden background. Here Sargent’s ability to combine two bright colors is beautifully displayed.

The exhibition, which is funded by the Blavatnik Family Foundation, intends to tell the stories of the subjects and patrons of Sargent’s work, which included many of the highest members of society at the time. His relationships with these individuals will be displayed via photographs, garments, clothing items, and handwritten accounts of his subjects. This highlights the true nature of the foundation itself whose aim is to promote innovation, creativity, and discovery worldwide. Sargent’s legacy of going past the boundaries of artist normality in the 20th century will be showcased through July 7, 2024.

Glamour, Fashion and a Flare for the Dramatic at Tate BritainSargent and Fashioninstallation viewwithLady Agnew of Lochnaw, 1892atTate Britain2024Photo © Tate (Larina Fernandes).