Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

:icontoerning: More from toerning

Featured in Collections

Journals by SavageFrog

Sculpture and Journals by Ornamentall

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
March 9, 2012


8,786 (5 today)
18 (who?)
I went to the De Young museum today with my mom having no idea what was actually in it and ended up spending a good hour in a room with a couple of Sargents.  I don't know if this nerdery will interest anyone but me, but you guys seemed pretty excited about that Adam Hughes observation I made so here's another of my rambling thought processes!

One of the paintings was this one-… which I never really took the time to examine before.  I admired the colors and general mood but, as always, seeing a painting in person is quite a different experience.  His bright, not-quite-white highlights are slapped on chunkily and they come out quite far from the canvas.  And they "pop" in a way no highlight has any right to- they're super juicy and effective.

When I got up really close, (this is a totally unjustified flight of fancy here guys) it looked as though he had waited for the highlights to entirely dry, and then had used a translucent layer of some sepia color, probably with lindseed oil or similar medium, and literally wiped it over the highlighted areas.  Where they were raised, they were not effected, but it gave a negative halo around the edges of the highlights.  

So, without any actual science to back this up, Sargent's (wildly fantasized) technique, is based off a natural phenomenon of vision.  Where there is an edge of a bright object against dark, our eyes/brain heighten the contrast right at the border.  So right where they meet, the bright looks brighter and the dark looks darker.  This sounds totally nuts but I swear it's true, look at a white piece of paper on a dark cloth and you'll see what I mean.  Knowing this to be the case, Sargent sharpened those highlights using a super simple, super self-conscious (in the best way) post-production technique.  Basically, Photoshop.

Now, I don't have any immediate plans to get back into oil paintings, but I gotta say, regardless of your medium, that is pretty darn cool.

<edit> Here's something cool!  The knowledgeable alexandergras points out that this phenomenon is called "Lateral Inhibition" and you can read up on it here!… </edit>
Add a Comment:
sketcheth Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
So now I think I need to go revisit the Sargent that's in Kansas City, where I'm at, and look for some of those moments. While we're speculating about this natural media phenomenon, could it be possible that he applied a varnish to the painting after he was done and that over time it's yellowed more where it collected? I know that happens to a lot of paintings from antiquity, because that's just what varnish does.

Also, you should definitely go to the Legion of Honor, I've been there a couple of times and they have a really wonderful Bouguereau there, amongst others. The DeYoung is just a crazy building though.

Anyways, yes. I appreciated this post.
lulles Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2012
Interesting insight! I personally love Sargent.
ninkira Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2012  Student General Artist
You saw two? I was at the SAM and we have one... The first time I went through the gallery, I was examining the paintings without looking at the artists. When I got to Leon Delafosse's portrait I couldn't stop pouring over it. And then my friend pointed to the plaque and said 'isn't this the painter you're obsessed over'.

It was like seeing a celebrity. But better, because these paintings have such a different quality in real life. Great take on his technique!
daydreamsinc Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
John Singer Sargent is a freaking boss, and that is a really snazzy observation!
Deer-in-Headlights Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2012  Student Digital Artist
He also sometimes had a yellow halo on his white objects and a blue halo on the otherside since he had astigmatism :) He was such a BOSS.
smitwise722 Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
CalamaritheSquid Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2012
Can I just say I love reading your journals? I am really not an artist (way more of a writer, here to stalk everyone's arts), but you make Arts easy to understand and Interesting (despite my never having gone near a canvas)? SO, YES. I love your journals. :heart: I shall scuttle away again now.
Ornamentall Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2012
Always interested to hear some art observations! I really need to get myself to a gallery and/or museum again one of these days... /sigh
ArtMagix Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Sergeant's stuff is utterly amazing, it's no surprise that lots of great artists today continue to use his technique! I'm heading down to Cleavland next week to see a Rembrandt show, another master of lighting!
SeraphL Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2012
I do like your little theory pieces. You always think of the most interesting things :)
Add a Comment: