Of slightly larger dimensions, a portrait of expat colleague Charles Stuart Forbes is another example of Sargent’s ability to create from a relatively brief session a likeness that places the sitter’s presence (and in this instance his surroundings as well) with the most direct and assertive gestures. And yet it is just a sketch, with an elegant, personal note to Forbes scratched into the wet paint. In its every aspect the portrait speaks to how far we have strayed from what artists once considered basic, even casual proficiency.
Born in Geneva, Charles Stuart Forbes trained with Carolus-Duran in Paris, developing a painterly style of portraiture, and he exhibited at the official Salon and at the smaller Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. While in Paris, Forbes befriended the American expatriate painter John Singer Sargent, and in 1881 the two men, together with fellow artists Ralph Curtis, Julian Pennington, and Julian Story, painted portraits of poet Robert Browning at the Palazzo Ca'Rezzonico in Venice. At this same time, Sargent also painted Forbes' portrait, which currently hangs in the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, California.