In this book, the author tells the story of how Sargent created this beautiful painting, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, during a very low point in his career.
This period of time was soon after the unveiling of the infamous portrait painting of Madame Guatreau---soon to be called Madame X because of the scandal of her dress strap falling off her shoulder (that's a whole other blog post). After the scandal, Sargent actually considered hanging up his palette and brushes!!
The distraught Sargent sought a safe haven in the English countryside where he spent the summer among friends, artists, and writers, escaping the stuffy Paris Salon. Sargent nursed his wounds and thought over his next career move.
One evening at twilight he had watched some children lighting paper lanterns hung between rose bushes in a garden. With new inspiration he recreated the scene outdoors in a garden, having children pose for him during the 20 or so minutes of delicate twilight each evening.
To capture the beautiful, transient light, he painted this outdoors on the grounds of his friends estate. He continued painting from August through November, 1885. Cold weather arrived before he was able to finish the painting. He continued off and on until 1887.
When it was finally finished and exhibited it was proclaimed a masterpiece! It hangs today in the Tate Gallery in London.
This story fascinates me, offering a window into this particular moment in Sargent's life.