Negative space and chiaroscuro

This came up earlier in the module but I hadn’t seen it discussed with reference to paintings that didn’t strike me immediately as employing this technique or method of focusing the eye and drawing attention to areas of demarcation. This very readable discussion by Dan Scott refers to John Singer Sargent’s painting of Madam X; how he used very blended and light brushwork for her skin and much darker, broader strokes for her hair, dress and background. Everything is about the posed elegance of this socialite who, by all accounts, had as much of an opinion of herself as Sargent had of his own eminence as a painter.

His use of light, as in chiaroscuro, emphasises her face and shoulders, then drops down in luminance as the eye travels towards her hem. She revels in her appearance and Sargent reflects that.

This clip of the portrait is taken from Dan’s article, accessed 13th August 2019.

madam x

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