DETAIL : John Singer SARGENT, The fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy 1907, The Art Institute of Chicago, American Art Collection DETAIL : John Singer SARGENT, Almina, daughter of Asher Wertheimer 1908, Tate, London, presented by the widow and family of Asher Wertheimer in accordance with his wishes in 1922
Left Arrow Graphic Gallery

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Society and exhibition portraits

Never speak disrespectfully of Society …
Only people who can’t get into it do that.
Oscar Wilde The Importance of being Earnest (1895)

Edwardians with well-established social pedigrees who wanted to affirm their long-standing ancestry had their portraits painted in the traditional manner of earlier artists to demonstrate their continuing family tradition. Newly rich industrialists, successful business men and professionals—as well as artists, musicians and singers—sought social credibility, believing that it could be achieved through images which showed them and their families in a historical style.

The Edwardian era was also the last days of the British Empire. The young men sent by the Colonial Office to act as government officials in India, Malaya, Africa, Australia and New Zealand were proud to have their portraits painted as figures of authority.

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