John Singer Sargent concluded the Impressionistic painting entitled Group with Parasols, also known as A Siesta in 1904. The artist portrayed four of his good friends taking a nap on a meadow of the Alpine, on Matterhorn. The two women on the left are Dos Palmer and Lilian Mellor, each under the shade of their parasols. The two gentlemen on the right are Leonard Harrison, who rests his head on Mellor’s lap, and his brother Lawrence Harrison. This painting shocked society at the time for its hinted sexuality, especially because it revealed the longtime affair between Lawrence and Palmer, who was the daughter of a wealthy and important American businessman.
Although Sargent was classically trained and had many paintings featured at the prestigious Paris Salon, he was influenced by his early art teacher, Carolus-Duran, to break rigid rules of the Academies and create something unique. Because of these teachings and Sargent’s great love for the painterly craft, he was able to combine traditional and modern techniques in his artwork. In the work Group with Parasols, the painter quickly and loosely portrayed a scene under the sun, in a way that figures and landscape seem to intertwine. Sargent worked with a variety of influences during his career, mainly the Baroque masters, like Diego Velazquez, but Group with Parasols has a more modern touch than most of his earlier artwork.
The theme portrayed is was considered very modern for the time – maybe too modern for some conservative critics – for it depicts an ordinary subject of the everyday life with ordinary human beings, and not themes from the bible of mythological stories. With thick layers of paint and rapid strokes of vibrant color, Sargent created a beautiful representation of his view upon this sun-drenched scene. The composition formed gives an impression of a quick snapshot taken from a camera, also an influence of modern times.
The two women wear white dresses, with yellow and blue pigments for light and dark contrast. Palmer has most of her face hidden behind the immense amount of fabric from Mellor’s clothing. The vegetation around them is painted in an expressive manner with brown, green, blue and yellow pigments. Leonard Harrison wears brown pants and vest over a white shirt, while Lawrence wears a white shirt, green pants, and straw hat.
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