ST. LOUIS, MO.- The Saint Louis Art Museum
Board of Commissioners has authorized the purchase of Portrait of Charlotte Cram, a 1900 painting by John Singer Sargent, one of the most respected portraitists in American art history.
The painting will be on view starting today in Gallery 335.
Brent R. Benjamin, the Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum, said the museum long had sought a masterwork by one of the American ex-patriate artists who traversed the Atlantic during the Gilded Age.
The purchase of Portrait of Charlotte Cram underscores the Saint Louis Art Museums commitment to building its collection through strategic acquisitions, Benjamin said. The painting fills a critical gap in the museums American art collection, and I have no doubt the portrait will become a favorite for our visitors.
Sargents depictions of children are an important part of his oeuvre, and this portrait of a seven-year-old American abroad has all the desirable aspects of this subject, said Melissa Wolfe, curator of American art.
Charlotte sits in an oversized chair with the unaffected charm of youth, Wolfe said. The sparkle in her brown eyes, barely restrained smile, and tilt of her head is endearing without falling into the excess of sentimentality. Her youthful exuberance is only barely contained by the decorum of portraiture.
Wolfe noted that Sargents ability to capture Charlottes psychology is matched by his extraordinary technical and aesthetic abilities. Charlottes white taffeta dress and oversized yellow sash and bow are conveyed in the fluid, bravura brush strokes that characterize the best of Sargents works, Wolfe said.
The painting will be installed in a gallery devoted to American art created between 1870 and 1920a period marked by the creation of vast fortunes, rampant political corruption, oppressive working conditions, and financial panics. During this period, conveying ones social position became less clear, and tasteor the ability to discern the fine from the commonbecame a mode to set the wealthy apart. Other highlights of Gallery 335 include Henry Ossawa Tanners Gateway, Tangier and Winslow Homers The Country School.