Art History Lecture
John Singer Sargent's Paris Moon Light: Twilight Disenchanted?
Dr. Hollis (Holly) Clayson, professor of art history and Bergen Evans Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University, specializes in the social history of nineteenth-century art rooted in Paris. John Singer Sargent's Paris Moon Light: Twilight Disenchanted? Long celebrated as one of the premier voices in the study of 19th century French art, Holly Clayson has worked on everything from the image of the courtesan in Impressionism to the conditions of life and art in Paris under the siege of 1870--71. Her long career has culminated in appointment as next year's Samuel H. Kress professor at the National Gallery of Art, one of the most prestigious academic appointments in the world. Of late, Clayson has begun turning her attention to the effects of electricity in the development of modern painting, and it is out of that research that this project comes. Entitled John Singer Sargent's Paris Moon Light: Twilight Disenchanted?, Clayson argues that Sargent's supposedly most "impressionist" canvases, the two Luxembourg Garden paintings of 1879, are nothing of the kind. They are read instead as extraordinary redefinitions of the Whistlerian nocturne that respond explicitly and imaginatively to the electric street lights that newly impinged upon the Jardin du Luxembourg, the largest green space on the Left Bank. From within the matrix of illumination discourse, Sargent's canvases displace the brutality of electric into the poetry of reflected moon light.