CFP Sargentology: New Perspectives on the Works of John Singer Sargent

Giovanni_Boldini_(1842-1931)_-_A_Portrait_of_John_Singer_SargentA two day conference to be held at King’s Manor, University of York, April 28-29, 2016

In 1910 Walter Sickert penned an article titled ‘Sargentolatry’ that addressed the fervour surrounding John Singer Sargent as an artist and tastemaker. Using the language of religious devotion, Sickert writes of the ‘prostration before [Sargent] and all his works’ by the British art press, the effect this adulation had on other artists working in this period, and how this sense of complacency was bad for both critics and artists alike. This article has often been misidentified with the title ‘Sargentology’ removing the dogmatic tinge of the original, focusing instead on a study of the work and life of Sargent as a distinct entity within the field of art criticism and the history of art. In the last decades of the twentieth century, however, complicity within this complacency has crept back into Sargent studies. Sargentology has veered back into Sargentolatry, leaving in its infallible wake a dearth of innovation with regard to Sargent scholarship akin to the state of art criticism challenged by Sickert in 1910.

With this conference, we wish to resurrect and redefine a new state of ‘Sargentology’, one defined by innovation, creativity, and enthusiasm. In order to really cultivate a sense of what Sargent’s art means for contemporary art historical practice, we welcome any and all submissions that approach Sargent through new and exploratory avenues. This can come through the guise of examination of a new, or little explored aspect of his oeuvre, or a new perspective on a familiar image or collection of works. However, this scholarship does not necessarily need to be image focused. Although Sargent was an artist, he was also well entrenched in the social, theatrical and literary worlds around him. His friends and colleagues included famous (and infamous) authors, aristocrats and actresses, while he also provided patronage and support to a large number of notable collections, exhibitions and galleries. We welcome anything that seeks to shed new light on any aspects of these areas of his life, along with Sargent’s love of music, world travel and literature, with or without its corresponding effect on his paintings.

Topics that we would wish to see, but are not limited to considering, include:

Sargent’s relationship with other artists and artistic movements.

Sargent’s relationships with women

Sargent and literature, authors, or literary movements

Sargent and music or musical movements

Sargent’s maritime paintings

Sargent’s murals or public monuments

Nationality and identity, or lack thereof in exploration of his cosmopolitanism

Sargent’s landscapes, watercolours, and charcoals

Sargent in War

Sargent as an art collector and connoisseur

Sargent’s Orientalist/Exoticist Images

Sargent’s images of children and childhood

Sargent’s and fashion/costume

Sargent and gender

We are seeking to create new ground for Sargent studies, while looking to pull together a network of Sargent scholars, old and new, that has never before been assembled. As the aim of this conference is to bring about new scholarship and question prevailing methodologies in Sargent studies, it is important that all submissions are rooted in the principle of novel approach. We intend to break fresh ground for Sargent studies in regards to both the man and his work, to take risks and to bring different perspectives on often trodden roads. In the words of Edwin Blashfield, writing on the cause of Sargent’s death, we consider merely that although there is an end to the man himself, ‘of his influence there is no end that can be perceptible us’. Therefore, it is in the spirit of Sargent, as the man, the myth, and to some, the monstrosity, that we are seeking unique submissions with the objective of viewing Sargentology in new and alternative lights.

Please send a 300 word abstract and a brief personal biography to by midnight on 7 December 2015. More information can be found at