|Anthony van Dyck, "Triple Portrait of Charles I," ca 1635|
|John Sargent, "The Pailleron Children," 1881|
Mr. Sargent's first double portrait was the children of his friend Edouard Pailleron. The painting is in the Des Moines Art Center permanent collection, where I've seen it scores of times. According to a memoir the little girl wrote much later, the artist and children equally loathed the entire experience, and it certainly shows on their faces. Mr. Sargent had a knack for likeness and expression. Some have said that despite the obvious sibling relationship this is more like two separate portraits stitched together. One of the beauties of seeing a work up close is the opportunity to really study how the painter laid down his strokes. Close examination of this one reveals really thrilling brushwork, almost like Franz Hals, in the satin dress and other passages, even down to the hands and fingernails. Mr. Sargent was never an impressionist, but neither was he an academician. The parents seem to have liked it, and it was reportedly a sensation at the Salon of 1881.
|"Mr & Mrs I.N. Phelps Stokes," 1897|
My thoughts turned to these and other multiple portraits because these last several weeks I've been working on a family portrait myself. It's not the first multiple-sitter portrait I've done but it's the first in a long while, and it takes some getting used to. The proportions, positioning, skin tones and the like have to be accurate and the likeness ought to be there as well.
Triple Portrait of Charles I
John Singer Sargent Complete Works