Conceived under the most unusual of circumstances, and nurtured in a remarkable setting at Broadway, The Cotswold, England, this painting is overwhelmingly held out by the public -- then as well as today -- to be the most favored painting of all his work. It is universally believed to be one of his masterpieces. Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, the title lifted from the light-hearted lyrics of a popular song, is a triumph of John's use of light which would never be equaled in quite the same way.
John Singer Sargent was an American painter by birth-right. He loved his country yet he spent most of his life in Europe. He was the most celebrated portraitist of his time but left it at the very height of his fame to devote full time to landscape painting, water colors and public art
He was born in Florence, to American parents and traveled extensively throughout Europe. His parents never settled back in America, not stepping foot in the States himself until right before his 21st birthday to retain his citizenship.
He was schooled as a French artist, heavily influenced by the Impressionist movement, the Spanish Master Velazquez, the Dutch Master Frans Hals, and his teacher Carolus-Duran.
His output was prodigious. Working dawn til dusk in some cases -- even on vacations, and sometimes seven days a week. Between 1877 (when his work really started taking off) and 1925, he did over 900 oils and more than 2,000 watercolors along with countless charcoal sketch-portraits and endless pencil drawings.
He painted two United States presidents, the aristocracy of Europe, the new and emerging tycoons and barons of business -- Rockefeller, Sears, Vanderbilt; and he painted gypsies, tramps, and street children with the same gusto and passion. He hiked through the Rocky Mountains with a canvas tent under pouring rain to paint the beauty of waterfalls, and painted near the front lines during World War I to capture the horrors of war. He painted the back alleys of Venice, sleeping gondoliers, fishing boats and the dusty side streets of Spain. He painted opulent interiors and vacant Moorish Ruins. He painted the artists of his time -- performers, poets, dancers, musicians, and writers -- Robert Louis Stevenson, and Henry James. He painted the great generals of the Great War, and the Bedouin nomads in their camps. He painted grand allegorical murals, and his friends as they slept.
Where others kept journals, John Singer Sargent painted his, and his life can easily be chronicled by these records in color and canvas. He loved people, yet was intensely private. And he loved his family deeply and devotedly, though he never had a family himself (was childless and never married). He was simply, a great man and a great Artist.