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John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925) Portrait of Henry L. Higginson II

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American & European Works of Art - 2507
Date / Time :
May 21, 2010 12:00PM


John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925)

Portrait of Henry L. Higginson II
Signed and dated "John S Sargent Dec 21st 1916" l.c.
Charcoal on paper with watermark "L. BERVILLE (France), sheet size 24 3/4 x 18 3/4 in. (63.0 x 46.8 cm), unmatted, unframed.
Condition: Sheet is mounted to archival paper to stabilize the margins, subtle rippling, toning, acid burn and foxing in the margins.

Provenance: From the estate of Henry Lee Higginson and Ida Agassiz, by descent through the family to the current owner.

N.B. John Singer Sargent remained in great demand throughout his career as a portrait artist for the leading individuals of his day. Over time Sargent came to prefer making charcoal drawings of his subjects. He could complete these portraits relatively quickly, often in one sitting, and the medium was very well suited both to his technical virtuosity and his adeptness at capturing his subject. Between 1910 and 1925 Sargent made over 500 such portrait drawings, while limiting his oil portraits to under thirty(1). The subject of this charcoal portrait, Henry Lee Higginson II (1900-1981), was the grandson of Henry Lee Higginson and Ida Agassiz Higginson(2). Henry Lee Higginson was a businessman and philanthropist, the founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and a benefactor of Harvard University. Ida Agassiz Higginson was the daughter of Louis Agassiz and was a founder of Radcliffe College. Sargent's charcoal portraits of Henry Lee Higginson (done in 1911) and Ida Agassiz Higginson (done in 1917) are in the collection of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University.

1. Sargent Portrait Drawings, Forty-two Works by John Singer Sargent, Selected and with an introduction by Trevor J. Fairbrother, Dover Publications, New York, 1983.

2. Descendants of the Reverend Francis Higginson by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Privately Printed, 1910.
Estimate $50,000-70,000

Original sheet is mounted to archival paper, stabilizing the margins that show mat burn (from 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inches wide around the perimeter) and scattered holes also within the margins.

Literature: David McKibbin, Checklist of Sargent Portraits, Sargent's Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1956, p.102; Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent, The Later Portraits (Complete Paintings, Volume III)New Haven and London 2003, p. 108, in the entry for the 1903 oil portrait of the sitter's grandfather, Henry Lee Higginson. We wish to thank Richard H. Finnegan for providing these references.


John Singer Sargent, Henry Lee Higginson, Ida Agassiz Higginson, Henry L. Higginson II, France, Ida Agassiz, B. John Singer Sargent, portrait artist, oil portraits, Harvard University, Henry Lee Higginson II, founder, businessman, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Radcliffe College, Louis Agassiz, Fogg Art Museum, David McKibbin, Dover, Trevor J. Fairbrother, Richard Ormond, Elaine Kilmurray, Francis Higginson, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, London, oil portrait, Richard H. Finnegan, United States