This stirring and enigmatic canvas, a reproduction of the likenesses of Mr and Mrs Albert Vickers (the latter a powerful British steel magnate) evokes a world the viewer would like to inhabit, a world now lost and infinitely out of reach. Yet, certainly this is what John Singer Sargent would have wanted when he painted A Dinner Table At Night, attempting to conjure the world of the industrial elite, a world so far removed from daily life yet appearing almost to imitate it. Painted in the Vickers home in Sussex, England, Sargent’s staging of the scene is remarkable for the ways in which it imitates the photographic style. Captured in what appears to be something akin to a snapshot, Mr Vickers is cut off at the edge of the frame, and the shimmering play of light hints at a picture hastily taken. The broad and confident brushstrokes – the hallmarks of Sargent’s friends, the Impressionists – render the symbols of wealth that litter the table as merely stabs of color. It appears Sargent’s aim was to portray that their true wealth was their leisure.
Lit by lamplight, Sargent’s interior displays what could be called a complex Impressionism, or an Impressionism of the interior. It is an eminently informal composition, perhaps portrayed as such by request from the sitters. A Dinner Table At Night is most of all a fluid and spontaneous reproduction of the two figures, an extremely modern attempt at establishing a new genre of portrait painting. Sargent’s interior recalled the mournful and sombre café worlds of Degas and Toulouse Lautrec, yet imbued Mr and Mrs Vickers with a vitality and youth which would have been the envy of many others sitting for a more austere portrait. Seemingly in jovial conversation with the painter, and with each other, A Dinner Table At Night is a magnificent and joyous portrait from an artist continuously updating his style and approach to remarkable effect.
Important Notes About Your Painting:
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