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Golden Hour Books

Family Romance: John Singer Sargent and the Wertheimers by Jean Strouse (11/19/24)

Family Romance: John Singer Sargent and the Wertheimers by Jean Strouse (11/19/24)

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Jean Strouse captures the dramas, mysteries, intrigues, and tragedies surrounding John Singer Sargent's portraits of the Wertheimer family.

Jean Strouse’s Family Romance: John Singer Sargent and the Wertheimers looks at twelve portraits of one English family painted by the expatriate American artist at the height of his career—and at the intersections of these lives with the sparkle and strife of the Edwardian age.

In commissioning this grand series of paintings, Asher Wertheimer, an eminent London art dealer of German-Jewish descent, became Sargent’s greatest private patron and close friend. The Wertheimers worked with Rothschilds and royals, plutocrats and dukes—as did Sargent. Asher left most of his Sargent portraits to the National Gallery in London, a gift that elicited censure as well as praise: it was new for a family of Jews to appear alongside the Anglo-Saxon aristocrats painted by earlier masters.

Strouse’s account, set primarily in England at the turn of the twentieth century, takes in the declining fortunes of the British aristocracy and the dramatic rise of power and wealth on both sides of the Atlantic. It travels back to the Habsburg court in Vienna and forward to 1930s fascist Italy. Its depictions of Sargent, his sitters, their circles, and the portraits themselves light up a period of tumultuous social change and the birth of the modern art market.

Sargent brilliantly portrayed these transformations, in which the Wertheimers were key players. Family Romance brings their interwoven stories fully to life for the first time.

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