Uncanny Spectacle: the Public Career of the Young John Singer Sargent

Uncanny Spectacle: the Public Career of the Young John Singer Sargent

Uncanny Spectacle

By Marc Simpson
With Richard Ormond and H. Barbara Weinberg
$45.00 Hardcover
By the time John Singer Sargent turned thirty years old in 1886, he already commanded an international reputation in the art world, creating a stream of works for exhibition that people eagerly awaited and discussed at length. Henry James noted that Sargent’s talent offered "the slightly 'uncanny' spectacle" of an artist on the threshold of his career who in fact had nothing more to learn. This book explores how the young American painter in just over a decade jumped from apprenticeship to wide acclaim, how he presented himself and his works, and how he sought to shape public perception of his talent. The book includes illustrations of every painting Sargent exhibited in Paris, London, and New York through 1887.


Drawing on the correspondence of the artist, his friends, and his family, as well as an extensive review of contemporary critical responses, the text examines these works of Sargent's early maturity—some unseen in this century and others among his best-known works—including Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, and Madame X. The authors contend the canvases present a fresh view of Sargent's aspirations and ambitions, representing a metaphoric self-portrait of the artist as a young man. The early paintings, their relationship to one another, and their reception also shed light on the complex, cosmopolitan art world in which Sargent lived.

Uncanny Spectacle accompanied an exhibition of John Singer Sargent's early paintings that opened in June 1997 at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

206 pages, 9 x 11 inches
39 color and 117 black-and-white illustrations
Published in association with Yale University Press

ISBN 0-300-07177-9 (hardcover)