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Fashioned by Sargent

Start Date 08 October 2023
End Date 15 January 2024
Venue Museum of Fine Arts,Boston
Location Boston,USA
Curator Erica E.Hirshler
“Fashioned by Sargent” installation view. Far left, ‘‘Beetle Wing Dress’’ for Lady Macbeth. Sargent’s painting of the actress Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, in the shimmering gown (which boasts actual beetle wing cases affixed to its surface), hangs nearby. The dress was created by Alice Laura Comyns-Carr.Credit: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Installation view of ‘Fashioned by Sargent’ exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Blue and white dresses.
John Singer Sargent, Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, 1892 Oil on canvas. National Galleries of Scotland, purchased with the aid of the Cowan Smith Bequest Fund, 1925.

Who creates your image?

In portraits by John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), sitters assume elegant stances, the fabric of their dress richly depicted in broad, sensuous strokes of paint. Sargent brought his subjects to life, but he did much more than simply record what appeared before him. He often chose what his sitters wore and even if they arrived in his studio dressed in the latest fashions, he frequently simplified and altered the details. Exploiting dress was an integral part of his artistry.

Organized with Tate Britain, “Fashioned by Sargent” explores the artist’s complex relationship with his often-affluent clients and their clothes. The exhibition reveals Sargent’s power over his sitters’ images by considering the liberties he took with sartorial choices to express distinctive personalities, social positions, professions, gender identities, and nationalities. Alongside about 50 paintings by Sargent, over a dozen period garments and accessories shed new light on the relationship between fashion and this beloved artist’s creative practice.

“The coat is the picture,” Sargent once told Graham Robertson, clearly articulating the role dress played in his work. The exhibition features Robertson’s portrait as well as style icons like Madame X, Lady Agnew, and Dr. Pozzi at Home. Visitors can also see several paintings together with the garments worn by the sitters, among them Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth with her beetle-wing-encrusted costume, and Mrs. Charles Inches (Louise Pomeroy) with her red velvet evening gown. Step into the making of a Sargent portrait and consider ideas of curating—and controlling—one’s image.

“Unapologetically gorgeous”
–Boston Globe

“You can take Sargent out of fashion, but you cannot take the fashion out of Sargent.”

Images courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,