John Singer Sargent Quotes Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Sargent was a talented, passionate painter who was happy to openly discuss his artistic techniques and ideas

Artist quotations are a reliable way of getting an insight into their work and to find reasons for some of their artistic decisions. All famous artists since the 18th century have a wide selection of attributed quotations which have aided researchers in building up a clearer picture of their lives and personalities.

Please find below some attributed quotations from John Singer Sargent's life:

No small dabs of colour - you want plenty of paint to paint with.

You can't do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.

Cultivate an ever continuous power of observation. Wherever you are, be always ready to make slight notes of postures, groups and incidents. Store up in the mind... a continuous stream of observations from which to make selections later. Above all things get abroad, see the sunlight and everything that is to be seen.

The thicker you paint, the more it flows.

I have now got a bombproof shelter [the Continent] into which I retire when I sniff the coming portrait or its trajectory.

Every time I paint a portrait, I lose a friend.

A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth.

To work is to pray.

If you begin with the middle-tone and work up from it toward the darks so that you deal last with your highest lights and darkest darks, you avoid false accents.

Color is an inborn gift, but appreciation of value is merely training of the eye, which everyone ought to be able to acquire.

I don't dig beneath the surface for things that don't appear before my own eyes.

Make the best of an emergency.

John Singer Sargent discusssing his watercolours

Mine is the horny hand of toil.

An artist painting a picture should have at his side a man with a club to hit him over the head when the picture is finished.

I hate to paint portraits! I hope never to paint another portrait in my life. Portraiture may be all right for a man in his youth, but after forty I believe that manual dexterity deserts one, and, besides, the color-sense is less acute. Youth can better stand the exactions of a personal kind that are inseparable from portraiture. I have had enough of it.

A person with normal eyesight would have nothing to know in the way of 'Impressionism' unless he were in a blinding light or in the dusk or dark.

The habit of breaking up one's colour to make it brilliant dates from further back than Impressionism - Couture advocates it in a little book called 'Causeries d'Atelier' written about 1860 - it is part of the technique of Impressionism but used for quite a different reason.

Mine is the horny hand of toil.

Impressionism was the name given to a certain form of observation when Monet, not content with using his eyes to see what things were or what they looked like as everybody had done before him, turned his attention to noting what took place on his own retina (as an oculist would test his own vision).