Malkin Lecture: Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas

John Singer Sargent’s high-society portraits defined the Gilded Age. Stanford White helped launch the artist’s career in America, spreading the word among his firm’s rich clients that a portrait by Sargent would be the perfect decoration for their massive mansions. Extremely prolific, Sargent insisted that his portraits were not psychological studies that he merely painted what he saw. Yet with some of his young women he seemed to have an uncanny ability to divine their internal landscapes. New York Times best-selling author Donna Lucey will speak about four of those women, whose lives she chronicles in her book Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas. These women all inhabited a rarefied world of large fortunes and strict conventions, yet managed to do something unexpected, something shocking, to upend society’s rules. Basing her research on original letters and diaries, Lucey uncovers lives out of an Edith Wharton novel. What emerges are stories of forbidden love, family conflict, ambition, desire, and triumph.

Donna M. Lucey is the author of Sargent’s Women, The New York Times best-selling Archie and Amélie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age, the award-winning Photographing Montana 1894–1928: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron, as well as other books, articles, and a feature-length screenplay. She is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Humanities grants and was a 2017 writer-in-residence at Edith Wharton’s The Mount. Ms. Lucey also serves as media editor at Virginia Humanities in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Image: A portrait of Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler (Mrs. John Jay Chapman), completed by Sargent in 1893. Smithsonian American Art Museum

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Thursday, October 11

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