Friday, October 19, 2007

Response to "The Wyndham Sisters"

The painting is "The Wyndham Sisters", by Jonathon Singer Sargent.
Three young ladies pose in a sitting room surrounded by flowers. They themselves wear white and two even wear pearl necklaces. As a "painting within a painting" , a portrait of what appears to be the girls' mother hangs on the dark wall behind them. The gold frames of the four paintings glimmer in the dimly lit space and add interest to the scene. The girls appear in a stage-like setting where the background and foreground are clearly separated into scenery and players.

Effective brushwork creates the vloumes of the girls' dresses. Included in the composition is an arrangement of white flowers which provide a metaphor for the transcient beauty of the girls, and also act as compositional aids balancing light across the canvas. The way the skin is painted is in complete contrast to the energetic brushwork describing the texture of the satin and lace. Instead, the features of the figures are carefully rendered, and Sargent expertly employs the techniques of chiaroscuro, modulation, and sfumato.

Two of the women gaze from the painting out at the viewer and the third looks over her shoulder at something or someone positioned behind the viewer, outside of the space of the painting. The youngest in appearance sits in the middle, in the most protected seat on the couch. Flanked by her two older sisters, she stares provocatively out of the painting almost naively seducing the viewer. She is the most attactive, and does not seem aware of her innate beauty.

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