Theodore Roosevelt (1903) by John Singer Sargent



This work would become the official White House portrait of Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, and one that he would favor his whole life long. Painter John Singer Sargent, being the foremost Anglo-American portrait artist of his era, earned a one-week stay at the White House while commissioned to create this likeness. The experience would unfortunately be vexing for both, as their personalities clashed greatly. Sargent's insistence on finding a suitable place to paint, and being unhappy with every location on the first floor, heavily tried Roosevelt's patience; Sargent, on the other hand, considered the strong will of Roosevelt to be quite daunting. Eventually they decided to look upstairs for an appropriate venue, but while ascending the staircase Roosevelt chided Sargent, saying he didn't think Sargent knew what he wanted. Sargent countered that he didn't think Roosevelt knew what was needed in posing for a portrait. At this, Roosevelt swung around at the landing of the staircase, placed his hand on the newel, and said "Don't I!" This moment turned out to reveal the perfect location for the portrait, and Sargent told the President not to move. Over the next week, Sargent would create the portrait in half-hour sessions throughout the week when the President had the time to spare.

Born January 12, 1856 to American parents, John Singer Sargent would go on early in life to be trained in Paris. A prolific artist, Sargent created some 900 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolors and countless sketches during his career, and came to be hailed as "the greatest portrait painter of his generation." His commissioned portrait work gravitated heavily towards grand manner portraiture (heavy emphasis on classical elements), yet his informal work showed a heavy leaning towards Impressionism. After training in Paris, Sargent suffered a serious scandal at the outset of his career after submitting 'Portrait of Madame X' to the Paris Salon, in reality a portrait of Parisian socialite Virginie Gautreau (famous for her clout and affairs). The portrait, which Sargent would later in life call "my best work," garnered so much criticism at the time that Virginie retired from public life for awhile, and Sargent had no choice but to migrate his career to London. Much later in life he shifted away from portrait work, often complaining of the constraints of the work, and shifted to vivid watercolors that were known for evoking dreamlike qualities. He traveled extensively during this phase of life, painting scenes from the world over, from Venice to the murky swamplands of the American south.



Includes a border on all sides to allow for matting and framing.