Who Was John Singer Sargent’s Niche?
John Singer Sargent is considered the leading portrait painter of his generation. His portrait paintings celebrate Edwardian-era luxury.
Again, we can determine Sargent’s niche by answering the following four questions:
1. Why = Who is the artist, what did he stand for, what did he stand against, and why?
Before we can know Sargent’s niche, we must first know who he was as a person.
His mother suffered a breakdown following Sargent’s older sister’s death at the age of two. Sargent’s family moved abroad to recover.
They lived modestly on a small inheritance and savings and with no social standing.
Sargent’s family led a quiet and isolated life as nomadic expatriates avoiding society and other Americans.
However, Sargent’s great artistic talent made him a popular standout among the newer portraitists, and his fame spread quickly.
Equally accomplished in art, music, literature, and business, he became a cosmopolitan young man.
In contrast to his family, he became socially well-positioned. Sargent’s relationships increased his social standing and revenue.
2. What = Based on his why, what is the one problem that he believed was worth solving?
People have a need to been seen for who they are, yet in a favorable light, so that they can heighten their social standing and self-confidence.
3. How = How did he solve this problem using his artistic and other skills and resources?
Artistically, Sargent was a remarkably skilled portrait painter whose paintings seemingly captured the soul of his sitters.
He was also well-versed in the Grand Manner of portraiture, giving his subjects an idealized aesthetic.
By incorporating visual metaphors, he inferred his subject’s noble qualities.
He built demand for his paintings by employing the luxury marketing strategies of exclusivity and scarcity.
Sargent confidently set high prices and turned down unsatisfactory sitters for portrait paintings, maintaining his brand’s standards.
He also limited the number of portraits he painted each year, creating competition for his time.
As another revenue stream, Sargent quickly rendered hundreds of charcoal portrait sketches, which he called “mugs.”
4. Who = Who had the one problem that he believed was worth solving?
Who else needed to be seen for who they were, yet in a favorable light, so that they could heighten their social standing and self-confidence?
The aristocracy. With their financial needs met, what was their larger concern? It was to ensure respect for their position in polite society. By being portrayed in a most favorable light, they also gained a boost to their self-confidence.
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