John Singer Sargent painted Mr. and Mrs. I. N. Phelps Stokes in 1897, during the couple’s honeymoon – a classic portrait and an icon of the time. The three of them spent weeks in his studio, with Sargent occasionally taking breaks to pound out tunes on his grand piano. The great painter was at the height of his career and almost too busy to make time for them, but an influential family friend had commissioned the work as a wedding gift.
Not everyone liked it. One critic called the painting “too clever for its own good.”
Bringing the portrait into existence had been a challenge for Sargent. According to I.N. Phelps Stokes, newlywed Edith “sat to” Sargent 25 times, posing over and over agin in a blue silk gown. Sargent finally got fed up with the formality and said “I want to paint you as you are.” Edith had come in from the hot London streets that day wearing informal attire, clothes drastically different than the diaphanous gowns the painter’s models typically posed in, and she had a fresh, dewy look about her cheeks.
In other words, she was sweating.
Come tonight to see more pictures and hear more nuggets about the Newton and Edith Stokes, their portrait, and their remarkable lives – Dominican Academy, 44 East 68th Street, bet. Park and Madison, at 6pm, sponsored by the Victorian Society of New York. Free.