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I suppose it is natural when thinking of John Singer Sargent for the word “elegance” to pop into one’s head.

But for me, the amazing thing about Sargent has always been his genius for composition, for handling blocks of space. 

“A Venetian woman” (1882) is a great example of what makes me sit and stare at so many of Sargent’s paintings. It is almost as if Sargent said to himself:  “Hey, I know, I’ll take this simply huge rectangular block of dark space. And I’ll put it into a portrait. And make it like half the portrait. And yet somehow…somehow…I’ll get it all to balance out perfectly.”

And so he does. Amazing.

Also a bit unusual in this one: Hiding the left foot.