This master copy hangs in my studio now, reminding me of the lessons I’ve learned by copying masterworks like this one. It’s as if Carolus-Duran (and Sargent) are staring down at me, saying things like, “State the masses!”, “If it doesn’t work, scape it back!”, and “Squint!”
Charles-Émile-Auguste Durand (1837–1917), known as Carolus-Duran, was a celebrated figure in the world of Parisian art and theater. Known for his elegant society portraits, he was also highly influential as a teacher. Sargent entered Duran’s studio in 1874 and became his star pupil. Duran’s approach was radical: he encouraged his students to draw and paint simultaneously, using a loaded brush. In this stylish portrait, which received an award when it was shown at the Paris Salon in 1879, Sargent pays homage to his teacher by embracing his fluid technique. The affectionate dedication to Duran, inscribed in French at the upper right, announces Sargent’s artistic pedigree but also caused some contemporary viewers to remark that the student had surpassed the master.