John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)

Sketch after 'El Jaleo'

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Sketch after 'El Jaleo'
signed 'John S. Sargent' (lower left)
pen and ink on paper laid down on paper
image, 9 x 13 in. (22.9 x 33 cm.); sheet, 9 x 14 in. (22.9 x 35.6 cm.)
Executed in 1882.
George Bernheim, Paris, France, before 1924.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, 1924.
Johnston L. Redmond, New York, by 1933.
Katharine Haven Osborn, New York, wife of the above, by descent.
Private collection, by descent.
Sotheby's, New York, 1 December 1994, lot 10, sold by the above.
Ruth Pruitt Phillips, Jacksonville, Florida, acquired from the above.
Estate of the above.
Sotheby's, New York, 30 November 2005, lot 41, sold by the above.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
R. Ormond, E. Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes, 1874-1882: The Complete Paintings, vol. IV, New Haven, Connecticut, 2006, pp. 268, 272, no. 19, fig. 168, illustrated.
New York, Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies, Inc., Helleu and Sargent Drawings, 1943, no. 43, as (Spanish Dancers).
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Memorial Exhibition of the Work of John Singer Sargent, January 4-February 14, 1926.
Washington, D.C, National Gallery of Art; Boston, Massachusetts, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, El Jaleo, March-November 1992, p. 196, no. 52, illustrated.

Brought to you by

William Haydock
William Haydock

Lot Essay

Celebrated as the most fashionable society portraitist of his day, John Singer Sargent was equally renowned for his brilliantly daring compositions based on his own inspirations. Among the most famous of his works, El Jaleo (1882, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Massachusetts) had its origins in the artist’s trip to Madrid in the autumn of 1879 and depicts a Spanish dancer in the throes of performance. Completed two years after its first conception in Spain, El Jaleo was a wild success at the Salon of 1882, with a critic proclaiming: “What a bold and lively creation! What life! What fine skill behind the impression! And the beauty of the paint, the beauty of the color! Caramba!” (as quoted in O. Merson, “Sargent: Early Spanish and Venetian Paintings,” Sargent/Sorella, Madrid, Spain, 2006, p. 58.) While Sargent also completed preparatory drawings for the painting, the present Sketch after ‘El Jaleo’ was actually drawn shortly after the completion of the oil painting, likely for the purpose of reproduction in contemporary publications. The work thus stands as a testament to Sargent’s great pride in this masterwork of his career.

El Jaleo derives its name from the Spanish dance depicted: the jaleo de jerez. However, the term ‘jaleo’ also translates into ‘ruckus’ or ‘hubbub,’ a suggestion of noisy chaos which in the composition seems to culminate in intensity as the scene progresses from left to right. Rendered in minimal ink, here the complex scene is elegantly reduced to its essence. The artist recreates the audacious movement of the oil painting using sharp, striking horizontal marks—as if the image is manifesting from the vibrations of the music. As in the full-scale work, the dancer’s arms are fully extended, akimbo and wildly expressive. Her head and neck are bent towards her left shoulder, her body contorted yet elegant and mirrored by her extravagant costume. The string band behind her are in a trance-like state of ecstatic accompaniment, while her cohort of fellow dancers join her with jubilant gestures of solidarity. These background figures appear as a flurry of gestural marks, abstract and expressionistic, personifying the building excitement of the scene. With this compelling, gestural linework, the drawing exudes a sense of freedom and fervor for life as the artist celebrates the success of one of the greatest paintings of his career.

More from American Art

View All
View All