While Sargent’s women are beautifully dressed and still have a great sense of life in them, it is, for the most part, a posed life, a life created for them by the painter. While they can seem sexual, their sexuality is often oddly artificial, whereas many of his men don’t seem sexual at all, but instead appear as though they were born with suits on and distant or arrogant expressions on their faces, exuding power in a world in which their power was fading. While some of his sitters seem puzzled or bewildered, they always seem members of the ruling class.
The three exceptions to this in the National Portrait Gallery show are worthy of close attention. They are all portraits of young men. The first, a portrait of the painter Albert de Belleroche done in 1883, remained in Sargent’s possession all of his life and was hung in the dining room of his house in Tite Street in Chelsea. Almost androgynous in appearance, Belleroche displays a sultry sexual presence.
From an interesting article at
Albert de Belleroche was a friend and studio-mate of John Singer Sargent in Paris and London, with the men making many sketches and paintings of each other. Some of the works that Sargent made of Belleroche are suggestive of an emotional relationship between the men and Belleroche may have been the love of Sargent's life. Dorothy Moss, an art historian, states "Sargent's portraits of Bellerouche, in their sensuality and intensity of emotion, push the boundaries of what was considered appropriate interaction between men at this period."
...Bellerouche became a master lithographer. Artist Frank Brangwyn said that "no one else has succeeded in making lithography the rival of painting." He developed a method of detecting forged watermarks in 1915. His work tapered off after World War I.
male portraitoil on canvas