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“A Portrait by Sargent”


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Smith, Kathryn Y. (American playwright, journalist, nonprofit executive director, 1956-____), “A Portrait by Sargent,”

a 45-minute comedy in English, set in John Singer Sargent's studio, London, morning, 1902,

2m (+cameos by 1m2f)

; •  © 2003 by Kathryn Y. Smith; •  in Kathryn Y. Smith’s A Portrait by Sargent (Anderson, South Carolina, U.S.A.: The Author, 2003) ;  •  script/rights available from Kathryn Y. Smith, 400 Heyward Road, Anderson, South Carolina 29621, U.S.A., telephone (home) 864-224-0290, (work) 864-222-3500, e-mail katsmith500@earthlink.net.  •  Cited by Kathryn Y. Smith via ftp June 5, 2003; Smith says,

  § Dramatis Personae John Singer Sargent (m), 46, the most celebrated society portrait painter of the Gilded Age; Ernest (m), 38, butler; Lord Sitwell (m cameo), 42, an English lord; Lady Ida Sitwell (f cameo), __, his wife; Edith Sitwell, (f), 15, their daughter.

  § Synopsis “John Singer Sargent is struggling with a decision to end his lucrative career as a portrait painter in order to pursue other forms of art in this play, which gives audiences a biographical introduction to the painter and his work. Reading aloud a letter he is writing to the French Impressionist Claude Monet, Sargent confesses his frustration and recounts how he came to this point. The famous portrait "Madame X" is central to the exposition. Slides of Sargent's work are used to expose audiences to his progress as an artist from that point. A cameo appearance by the Sitwell family, clients of the artist's, illustrate why he is so tired of painting artistocrats. As the play ends, Sargent comes to the conclusion that he will stop painting portraits entirely—only to receive a commission he can’t refuse, the official presidential portrait of Theodore Roosevelt.

  §  Comment “One scene. This play can be produced in an art gallery, classroom, lecture hall, etc. It had its premiere in a warehouse owned by the Anderson County (SC) Arts Center in May 2003. Ideal for a fund-raiser proceeded by cocktails and light food or followed by dessert and coffee. The slides can be projected with a slide projector or PowerPoint.” • “An angular, aristocratic woman, 6 ft (183 cm) tall, Dame Edith Sitwell was famous for her wit and her eccentric appearance. Her poetry, strongly influenced by the French symbolists, ranges from the artificial and clever verse of her early years to the deeper and more religious poems of her maturity. Collections of her work include Clowns' Houses (1918), Rustic Elegies (1927), Gold Coast Customs (1929), The Song of the Cold (1948), Façade, and Other Poems, 1920–1935 (1950), Gardeners and Astronomers (1953), and The Outcasts (1962). Her Collected Poems appeared in 1954. Façade, characterized by ragtime rhythms and abstract word patterns, was set to music by William Walton and first read by her in 1922. Important among her critical works are Poetry and Criticism (1925), Aspects of Modern Poetry (1934), and A Poet's Notebook (1943), a collection of aphorisms on the art of poetry. Other prose works include Alexander Pope (1930); The English Eccentrics (1933); I Live under a Black Sun (1937), a novel about Jonathan Swift; and Fanfare for Elizabeth (1946) and The Queens and the Hive (1962), biographies of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1954 she was made dame of the British Empire.”—Sitwell: Edith Sitwell, http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0861113.html, accessed June 6, 2003. • Research could include Dame Edith’s autobiography, Taken Care Of (1964) and Selected Letters (1970); study of her work by G. Singleton (1960); R. Fulford, Osbert Sitwell (1951); S. Bradford, Splendours and Miseries: A Life of Sacheverell Sitwell (1993); P. Ziegler, Osbert Sitwell (1999); J. Lehman, A Nest of Tigers: The Sitwells in Their Times (American ed. 1968).—Sitwell. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001, http://www.bartleby.com/65/si/Sitwell.html, accessed June 6, 2003. • Also, research could include Sir George Sitwell Lady Ida Sitwell and Family, 1900, Oil on canvas, 170.2 x 193 cm, Private collection.”

  §  Themes art history, artist, biography, Sargent (John Singer Sargent, Italian-born American artist, 1856-1925), Edith Sitwell (aka Dame Edith, English biographer, critic, novelist, poet, 1887-1964), George Sitwell (aka Lord Sitwell, aka Sir George Sitwell, Baronet, an antiquarian and genealogist, 1860-1943), Ida Sitwell (aka Lady Sitwell, 18__-19__), Monet (Claude Monet, French Impressionist painter, 1840-1926), Roosevelt (Theodore Roosevelt, twenty-sixth President of the United States of America, 1901-1909, b. October 27, 1858-d. January 6, 1919).

See also Kathryn Y. Smith’s


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