John Singer Sargent, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, 1882. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo via the-athenaeum.org (Public Domain).
I’ve been reading John Singer Sargent scholar Erica Hirshler’s book Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of aPainting. This book is about John Singer Sargent’s The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, an unconventional 1882 portrait of Edward and Isa Boit’s four daughters. The book talks about the expatriate Boit family, the lives of the four girls, Sargent (one of my favorite artists ever), and the history of the painting itself.
I really enjoyed this book, and it really made me think about why this painting is so compelling. Hirshler addresses this question a lot, so let’s talk about it now. For one thing, the composition is unusual. Two of the girls are set so deeply in the shadow that one is barely visible, and you can’t see her face. More important, I think…
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