I’m looking forward to speaking at the Portrait Society of America’s conference in Philadelphia next month. It will be a great event with approximately 800 artists from around the world in attendance. On Friday evening, one of my duties will be to present a program on the life, work, and technique of John Singer Sargent. My favorite artist to study, I recently ran across this interesting piece of information in a tiny “conversation piece” written by a personal friend of the artist, Martin Birnbaum nearly 70 years ago. In speaking about Sargent’s personal assistant, Birnbaum said:
“Niccola would often prime an old canvas with white paint mixed with raw umber, on which blues especially were silvery and brillant, but this pigment has an unfortunate tendency to eat through, if the paiting had not dried thoroughly, and then the picture is almost past repair.”
Anyone who has read James Montgomery Flagg’s “Roses and Buckshot” know of a particular case where this could be the trouble. Pay close attention to the portrait of William Merritt Chase at the Metropolitan Museum each time you visit. You just may see something appear and then disappear!