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The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy
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mbaa's picture

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Who wouldn’t love a vacation where you get to paint at the fountain at Villa Tortolonia in Italy?

I imagine it would be quite easy to succumb to the quaint charms of this tiny Italian village. Sargent surely did.

John Singer Sargent was on vacation with his friends, Jane de Glehn and Wilfred de Glehn. They were both artists and married to each other. The couple had been on several trips with Sargent as the third wheel. In fact, he even accompanied them on their honeymoon. I think it’s more likely that they were just training wheels for his unicycle. I mean, if a famous artist, a legend, asks you to accompany him to Italy, you’re probably not going to say no.

This painting features the couple. Jane paints as Wilfred catches a break, sneaking a peek at his wife’s work. By 1907, Sargent had made enough money to make time for plein-air painting. He hung out with Monet, watching him paint and painting him painting. Sargent loved the method of painting outside, but never took to Impressionism

Wilfred de Glehn met Sargent in Paris in 1895. He was hired to assist Sargent and Edwin Abbey on their mural project at the Boston Public Library. Wilfred accompanied the duo on a few of their numerous trips to Boston. It's said that the British painter met Jane Erin Emmet, his now-wife, on one of these work trips. In 1903, they were engaged and a year later, married.

Sargent wasn’t happy at first, he wrote to Wilfred when he heard about his engagement. He was afraid that his friend would stay back in America and he wouldn’t get to see him as often. Sargent didn’t say it in so many words. He did that thing you do when you want to save face after you have been vulnerable. You say what you feel and cover it up with an “I’m only joking”. Sargent was clearly very very fond of Wilfred. A few theories suggest that they may have been lovers, but we’re not so sure about that. Their relationship was like that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson...who I suppose could also have been lovers. So, well, yeah, you never know.

Jane de Glehn, it turned out, was a super chill lady. Sargent had absolutely nothing to worry about. The couple moved to London, very close to Sargent’s house. Sargent couldn't be more thrilled. He found in Jane a friend and a muse. She would come to feature in quite a lot of his paintings. In this painting, she’s the hero. She sits higher than her husband, clad in white, and visibly the most active element in the frame. Sargent really liked her, and some believe that he liked her even more than Wilfred. This would probably be the weirdest love triangle ever. If it were a love triangle. It looks more like a circle to me. John Singer Sargent swivels in both directions, happy to be with either one, or both. 

 

Sources

Sources

  1. "The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy,1907." Metmuseum.org. Accessed August 01, 2019. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/21444.
  2. "Sketching on the Giudecca, Venice,1904." Metmuseum.org. Accessed August 01, 2019. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/21443.
  3. "The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy." Art Institute of Chicago. Accessed August 1, 2019. https://www.artic.edu/artworks/69780/the-fountain-villa-torlonia-frascat....
  4. "Featured Artist: Wilfred-Gabriel De Glehn." McColl Fine Art. Accessed August 01, 2019. https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Featured-Artist--Wilfred-Gabriel-de-....
  5. Natasha. The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy. Accessed August 01, 2019. https://www.jssgallery.org/Paintings/The_Fountain_Villa_Torlonia_Frascat....
  6. "American Girls Art Club In Paris. . . and Beyond." American Girls Art Club In Paris and Beyond. Accessed August 01, 2019. https://americangirlsartclubinparis.com/tag/the-fountain-villa-torlonia-....
  7. Herdrich, Stephanie L. "Tracing Connections between Sargent and Charles Deering." Metmuseum.org. Accessed August 01, 2019. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2015/sargent-portraits-of...

Comments (1)

Darius

It is interesting how the painting shows such relaxation. This makes me think Sargent was very comfortable with his friends. Both painting them and being the third party to their relationship. It also makes me think that painting was where he was most comfortable in life.
I love how Jane and Wilfred de Glehn are painted in such pure, light colors. Seemingly showing the simplicity of their life together and in this moment. Being the talented artist that Sargent was you have to believe that with every color he chose to use.
I also find it humorous to think about how Sargent was thought of as a scandalous artist like the Madame X painting in yet, we see in this painting a wholesome, joyful scene.
Sargent seems to have multiple sides to his art just like his private life. There some critics that speculate Sargent's sexuality. Trying to interpret the details of his male and female portraits. There were also rumors that Sargent had a sexual relationship with Wilfred de Glehn and then at another time Wilfred's wife, Jane. Making the painting of the couple even more interesting to the audience.
But pushing Sargents sexual life to the side, his work in this piece of art is breathtaking and should be treated as such.