Sunday Painting: Lady Agnew by John Singer Sargent

Since I fell in love with this marvelous portrait by John Singer Sargent at the National Gallery of Scotland in 1997, I have seen it crop up in many places and on many a book cover. But perhaps the most interesting literary tie-in that I have come across is in the movie Mrs. Dalloway where the young Clarissa (played by Natascha McElhone) wears a gown identical to the one Lady Agnew is wearing in the portrait.  Oddly enough the film came out the same year I first saw the painting, but I think I saw the film first. So it wasn’t until about a year ago when John and I made a double feature of Mrs. Dalloway and the The Hours that I noticed (with an assist from the ‘pause’ button) that the young Clarissa was wearing this gown. The pause feature on the DVD also came in handy during the viewing of The Hours when I noticed that Julianne Moore’s character had a copy of Iris Murdoch’s Under the Net next to her bed, which wasn’t actually published until a year or two after the time of the action in the film. But I digress, on to the lovely Lady Agnew…

Gertrude, Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, (1865-1932)
John Singer Sargent, (1856-1925) American

11 thoughts on “Sunday Painting: Lady Agnew by John Singer Sargent

  1. C.B. James May 2, 2010 / 11:42 am

    While I'm not a big fan, I admit that when Mr. Sargent is good, he's very good. This one is terrific.


  2. ramblingfancy May 2, 2010 / 2:44 pm

    Thank you for this – it's gorgeous! I do love Singer Sargent. The first painting I saw of his made an enormous impression. It was in the Williamstown Clark Art Institute and was the Fumee d'Ambre Gris. I just stood and stared with my mouth open!


  3. bookssnob May 2, 2010 / 5:44 pm

    I adore Singer Sargent and this one is especially beautiful. Thank you for posting it!


  4. Vintage Reading May 2, 2010 / 9:22 pm

    She looks like a minx! Surprised that picture has not made its way onto a Wharton cover.


  5. StuckInABook May 2, 2010 / 9:31 pm

    I love this painting too! In fact, when I went round the gallery in Edinburgh last year, this was the only one I really loved and the only one I sought out a postcard of in the giftshop… I often use it as a book mark. But somehow I have never seen the film of Mrs. Dalloway, despite owning it – I will look out for this dress when I do eventually watch it. Thanks, Thomas!


  6. Thomas at My Porch May 3, 2010 / 7:28 am

    CB: I must admit I am a softie for Mr. Sargent.

    Rambling Fancy: Isn't the Clark amazing? We were there a few summers ago and they had just built a beautiful new building to supplement the one that houses their main collection.

    Book Snob: If only his sitter knew how famous she would be one day.

    Vintage Reader: I wouldn't be surprised if she has been on a Wharton cover somewhere.

    Simon: The young Clarissa is wearing the facsimile during a dinner party.


  7. A Bookish Space May 3, 2010 / 3:58 pm

    What a beautiful portrait. This is the first time I have come across it and I am utterly captivated! Thanks for posting.


  8. Steerforth May 3, 2010 / 4:58 pm

    I've loved Sargent ever since I first saw his Claude Monet Painting in a Garden Near Giverny, when I was 17.

    The Lady Agnew portrait is interesting – the contrast between the vivid realism of her face and the impressionistic brush-stokes of the surroundings is either masterly or inconsistent, depending on your point of view. I think it works.


  9. Thomas at My Porch May 3, 2010 / 9:16 pm

    A Bookish Space: I was familiar with a lot of Sargent's work, but when I stumbled across this one in Scotland it was a bit of a revelation.

    Steerforth: I also think the juxtaposition of the East and West is very interesting.


  10. Hayley May 6, 2010 / 6:10 pm

    I love this painting, it has the surprisingly rare quality of making you stop and stare at it and then go back and stare again. She's so arresting and has so many happy associations for me. Nice to see her again!


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