In1985, during a visit to the Tretyakov Gallery in St Petersburg, I was surprised at the large number of first rate Russian paintings that are generally unknown in the U.S. Serov's painting were especially impressive. I purchased a poster of 'Girl with peaches', carried it home, framed it, and hung it on a wall. Years later in Boston, I purchased a reproduction by the then underrated American artist John Singer Sargent, also of a young girl at the breakfast table. The two painting, hang side by side in my office, and offer an interesting contrast. Both paintings are on the surface cheerful and both have disturbing undercurrents.
(click above for enhanced image)
The Breakfast Table
Sometime in the
90's, while attending a conference at Harvard, I visited the Fogg and the Boston
Museum of Fine Art and gained a fresh appreciation for the works of
John Singer Sargent. His portraits of rich and famous people hold no interest for me, but
his painting of a young girl at a breakfast table I find appealing. The figure is Sargent's younger sister, Violet, painted at the home of his parents in Nice. The bright
and cheerful table setting, the silver pieces on the shelve, the brown wood, and
the pictures hanging on the wall, all perfectly executed,
are not offset by the blackness beyond
the open door. That darkness does not seem threatening but benign. The light
hanging above illuminates her face as she concentrates on her book, while
pealing an orange, and provides the focus of the painting.
(click above for larger image)