NYC – Day 2: Of Sargent and Sabarsky and Shakespeare

Day 2 was marvelous.  It was sunny and not too hot, with a good breeze

I went back to the Met and throughly explored the John Singer Sargent exhibit. Th day before I had walked through quickly, tailing a curator (curatrix) of the exhibit explaining some of the pieces and the theory behind the exhibit. So, on the second, careful visit, I had a head start.

If you are anywhere near Manhattan, go to this one!

A couple samples (photos were permitted, except for one piece).

In the first room, you find this stupendous double portrait, JSS’s first.  The boy seems an afterthought, though he also has a highly developed personality, bordering on indifference.   The real star is the little girl.   She was very difficult with work with, didn’t like the process, and gave JSS a seriously hard time.  This took 83 sittings!

Her intense gaze conveys the moment, and her will.

Notice her hand position.  Hands are really important in JSS’s paintings.

Here’s a crazy piece. This is writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, who is on the edge.  I asked the curator if the painting had been cut down.  No.

He is striding, energetic, playing with his mustache, in the act of speaking.  She, languidly and exotically dressed, is on the edge, looking neither at the painter nor her husband.  The door conveys something of the mystery of who people really are.  I don’t think it implies separation, as you might find in some paintings by Bonnard.  She, Fanny, loved this painting.  It is one of three that JSS did of RLS.   JSS travelled in literary and artistic and performance circles and had many friends among artists.  In fact, this exhibit emphasizes the performance aspect of painting.  When JSS paints painter friends who are in the act of painting, you have a painter painting a painter who is painting.  The painting then becomes something of a self-portrait, even though the painter is behind the point of view.

I thoroughly enjoyed this portrait of Henry James, who was a great friend of JSS.  James said of it, “Sargent at his best, and poor old Henry James not at his worst”.  This was for his 70th birthday.

Exhibits often peter out in the last room or so, sometimes because the artist is in decline.  This exhibit was strong to the end.  JSS gave up doing lots of formal portraits at a certain point and began to work more in watercolors etc.   The final room of the exhibit was simply lush.  It was great to see how his technique was so deftly used to create the effect of the light through leaves… thin paint at the bottom and thicker near the top to achieve the intensity of light and color.

Click HERE for larger.  (A shocking image in its day!)

A detail from the “logo” piece for the exhibit.  I love how the man’s thumbs are hooked into  his pants as he reclines.  And there is that incredible JSS white.. that is never white.



Click HERE for larger.

Lunch at the nearby Neue Galerie.. one of the only Hungarian places left in Manhattan, alas.   Avocado salad.

Ungarisches Rindgulasch mit Spätzel.  A little pricey but remarkably good.


We decided, rightly to forego the Guggenheim and, instead, go our separate ways for some rest and regrouping.

Later, I passed some time at Bryant Park before meeting my peeps for supper.  A company is playing Shakespeare in Bryant Park.  I caught a little of their Romeo and Juliet.  I came in during the balcony scene.


I left at the time Tybalt killed Mercutio.

Mercutio was female, and screechy.

Normally, I’m sad when Mercutio buys it.  Not this time.

On either side of the stage where signs with Capulet corporate logos.

During the show, some of the cast on the Montague side passed out these propaganda sheets.  You can see what they were doing.

My peeps and I were originally going to have sushi nearby but that fell through when it was discovered that the wait was over an hour.  Thus, we had to – unfortunately – tramp through Times Square to get to our next location.

Times Square is rather like the 8th Circle, each corner a different Bolgia.


I won’t trouble you with the the whole meal, but dessert was an endless chocolate mousse… for the table, not for me.


And thus we fended off death by starvation in the company of a canonist, an entrepreneur, the famous nurse, a lawyer and an industrial psychologist… or psychological industrialist.  I get them mixed up.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Kathleen10 says:

    Thank you so much for sharing some of the Sargent exhibit! It is fascinating to see how hodgepodge art work can be when examined closely, yet it works perfectly viewed at the proper distance. Genius. I love Sargent’s work. I don’t wonder the little girl would have that expression after 83 sittings, nor the boy.
    Looking at that photo of Times Square, I know I would be pining for the beautiful open sky, seeing that speck of heavenly blue and white!

  2. acardnal says:

    Keep your eye out for POTUS. He’s in NYC this weekend. He may want to limit your religious freedom of movement.

  3. Mike says:

    One wonders where faithful renditions of Shakespeare can be found on this side of the pond. Performances here in the capital of these USA are, as one might sadly expect, puddled by politics.

    I tried the Stratford Festival in Ontario in 1999 and haven’t yet been back. That year’s Richard II was irritatingly bowdlerized of Christian references, although the play Glenn about Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould was enjoyable.

  4. Thank you for the Sargent posts. I never tire of Sargent. His master of light, shadow, form and color are pure poetry in paint! And the brushstrokes, it is so beautiful it hurts. No, the whites are never white and the shadows are never dull. I find Sargent’s handling of shadows fascinating as some are very thick not to mention the almost perfect balance and variation of color in them. I can imagine how beautiful they are in person. When I look at paintings that are truly remarkable, I wonder at how some could claim the artist was an atheist or one who claims to be an atheist could remain in their position! To me the artist is saying, look not at my genius handling of paint or marble look at the genius and beauty and order of creation. It is a little secret the artist is translating through his paint. The longer you look the louder and clearer the language and message becomes.
    By the way, everything else looks wonderful but I could starve in front of a Sargent among other artworks.

  5. Titus says:

    The sparkling orange juice at the Cafe Sabarsky is one of the culinary wonders of the world. It is everything one could wish from a refreshing, non-alcoholic drink. I have sought for a replica elsewhere in vain.

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