Henry Sargent


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Painter. Reflecting the gracious lifestyle of Boston's early-nineteenth-century elite, his two best-known works number among early examples of American genre painting. Sensitively handled light and space lend a meditative poetry to The Dinner Party (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, c. 1821) and The Tea Party (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, c. 1821–25). Depicting social gatherings in elegant federal-era interiors, these amply proportioned paintings demonstrate Sargent's awareness of French neoclassical painting in their clearly articulated, illusionistic spaces and crisp definition of forms. At the same time, the paintings' warm tonalities and their air of comfortable domesticity suggest the seventeenth-century Dutch paintings he admired. Sargent also painted portraits as well as historical and religious subjects. Born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, he lived in Boston as a child. In 1793 he departed for London, where he studied for four years with Benjamin West and received encouragement from John Singleton Copley. After returning to Boston, he served in the military from 1799 until 1815 as well as in the Massachusetts legislature in 1812 and from 1815 until 1817. An advocate of American art, he actively contributed to the development of Boston's art life through personal and institutional initiatives.

Subjects: Art.

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