By Iride Aparicio

Photos: Courtesy FAMSF

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Those who can appraise quality paintings, now have the opportunity to see, first hand, some of the best portraiture ever created, in oils and watercolors, in the dazzling drawings of American-expatriate artist John Singer Sargent (l856-l925) at the  San Francisco's Legion of Honor exhibition  SARGENT & SPAIN.

Developed during the artist seven visits to Spain during the years l879 to l912, Sargent's broad variety of pictures, which also include his never- before exhibit photographs, not only display his technique as a painter, but it gives its visitors a graphic and historical view of the Spanish culture, as it was during that time, by allowing us to watch Spain, from his point of view. This fact alone, makes this exhibition unique,

SARGENT was a prolific painter who in his over one hundred and fifty pictures, described different aspect of Spain as it looked in l874 when he first arrived from his home in Paris. During his exploration, he painted the earth-covered streets, crossed by loaded donkeys carrying merchandise on their backs. The interior of big houses, build around an square cemented court yards, with round wood pillars around them. The inside of Gothic, and Moorish-looking churches. Their elaborate altars, and pictures of their Saints and their statues. And as he walked around, he painted people standing on the streets talking with each other, or resting inside their elegant-furnished homes, like the portrait below, representing two elderly Spanish ladies dressed in long silk and lace dresses, wearing an unconventional black mosquito net over their heads to protect their faces from them.


He painted long streets, showing a row of white one-story houses covered with roofs of red tiles, different parks, where he also painted their fruit trees, their flowers and the fruits hanging from their branches, and some of their elaborate, and perfectly- detailed white marble Spanish-style fountains.


Visiting museums, and churches, he learned from observing the works of Hispanic painters, among them Velazques, Goya and El Greco. And walking around Spain's countryside: he painted the  poor people executing  their chores, pulling a loaded burro carrying merchandise, young men, standing  on the street, or a group of women   washing their clothes on a river bank, kneeling on the ground, using the  rocks  as washing boards.


The Second Section of the SARGENT & SPAIN exhibition, appropriately called "Dance and Music," is also, graphically illustrated with sketches and paintings, in which SANGER also displays his passion for Spain's performing arts: music, singing and dancing.

Being a visual artist, he may have been fascinated by the different angles and shapes, created by the heads, arms, hands, fingers, torsos, hips legs, and feet of the Roma, as the groups of gypsies who danced the Flamenco were called at the time. The Roma, at the time of SARGENT, were considered outsiders all over Spain, and because of it, marginalized by the Spanish society. Their dances, considered vulgar and completely ignored, and because of it, their culture was only appealing to the Avant-garde artists living in Spain at that time, who idealized their fiery spirit and their exotic dancing. SARGENT was one of them. He was attracted by their physique, by their dresses, by their culture,by their music and by their dancing, which he represented in many on his best paintings. One example is In "El Jaleo," one of his best paintings of the Roma exhibited in the exhibition, in which SARGENT presented the pictures of the Flamenco musicians, dressed in black suits and hats, playing their guitars and some of his sketches of different dancers as theatrical productions


The exhibition concludes with a gallery dedicated to SARGENT interest in religion, where many of his pictures are architectural in nature, depicting   the inside of elaborate Gothic style  churches,  their architecture, their arches, their elaborate golden painted altars, and even the different  statues of the many Catholic Saints. In the churches, SARGENT also studied the style of some of the old master Hispanic painters such as El Greco and Goya, who had painted some of those oil painting, reproducing their dimensions and shapes, using  nothing but his eyes as lenses. Presenting some of his works inspired by religious, was done by SARGENT in preparation to his ambitious mural cycle at the Boston Public Library. SANGER & SPAIN ends with a display of his personal photographs.

Tickets for the once in a time "UNIQUE" exhibition may be ordered online at: https://tickets.famsf.org/events .