Sargent's Daughters by Erica Hirshler

Sargent's Daughters

One of the most celebrated painters of his day, John Singer Sargent defines for many the style, optimism and opulence of turn-of-the-century America. Among his renowned portraits, "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit" stands alongside "Madame X" and "Lady Agnew of Lochnaw" as one of Sargent's immortal images. This painting depicts four young sisters in the spacious foyer of the family's Paris apartment, strangely dispersed across the murky tones ...

Details Sargent's Daughters

TitleSargent's Daughters
Release DateOct 31st, 2009
PublisherMFA Publications
GenreArt, Nonfiction, History, Art History, Biography, Family

Reviews Sargent's Daughters

  • Kalliope
    I am a great enthusiast of biographies of paintings. They have a centrifugal force, spiralling out onto many fields from a centre of origin. The one canvas will take you to the artist’s world, to the lives of the sitters, to the world depicted. And the painting will remain with you.And The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit , painted in 1882 by John Singer Sargent (1856- 1924) at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, is one painting to keep in oneâ€...
  • Louise
    The painting was new and different when first shown at the Paris Salon of 1883 under the name “Portraits of Children”. It defied the norm in that the girls were not formally dressed or sweetly posed as was the period’s norm for childhood portraits. Reviews were mixed. Most critics responded based on their acceptance (or rejection) of impressionism as a new style of painting and/or of Americans who seemed too visible in the established Paris...
  • Gerald
    [Cross posted from my review on "Sargent's Daughters: The One Percent of Yesteryear"]Nonfiction books on art history by scholars tend to be dry, written to impress a rarified peer group and too often arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Not so, this one. While Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of a Painting is hardly a Victorian bodice-ripper, it has its intrigues and its fascinations. Author Erica E. Hirs...
  • Emma
    I never thought a book about a painting would be so engaging, but this book is awesome! I should have figured since it is about my second favorite painting (and has a little section about my favorite one). I loved learning all about John Singer Sargent and about the girls in the painting. It is definitely worth reading for those who love this painting.
  • Kate
    What a delicious read for any johnsingersargentophile-- and indeed for any artlover. I don't think I've ever read another such "biography of a painting," which tells about the people and circumstances surrounding its creation, its subsequent travels through exhibits and galleries-- and then the "what happened next" in the lives of its subjects. Like nearly everyone who's fallen in love with the enigmatic daughters of Edward Darley Boit, I always ...
  • Rachel
    I have always loved Sargent's paintings, especially the Daughters of Edward Boit, so I was a bit fearful that the book would take away from the work itself. Instead I was pleasantly surprised by the backstory of the family and the artist, the many social connections among artists of the day, and the glimpse back in time at Paris, Boston, and Newport. In fact, I found myself questioning how I ever ended up in Asian art when the American impression...
  • Marcia A
    I was disappointed in this book, thinking it was a biography of the Boit family. The first half, rather dull, discussed John Singer Sargeant, his paintings and those of his contemporaries. The first half read like a text book; the second half finally discussed the Boit family and as much information as is known about the four girls in the portrait as well as the history of the location of the portrait (of which there were many).
  • Karen
    The subject of this book is one of my favorite paintings, and having just re-visited it at the Museum of Fine Arts, I thought it would be a good time to learn more about it. I liked the way the book is structured and the evenhanded way the author presents the varying interpretations of, and reactions to, this work of art. The chapter on the grown-up lives of the Boit daughters was particularly interesting.
  • Jesse Richards
    Interesting, and a lot of great stuff in here, but there's a middle part that trudges through too much detailed history of the Boit family. When this book is a "Biography of a painting", as it claims, it's good; when it's a biography of the Boits, not as much.Note: perhaps my favorite thing I learned was that Julia (the youngest daughter) grew up to be a talented painter herself.
  • Alarie
    If only the book had followed the title and focused primarily on painter John Singer Sargent. The author tells us about the painting of Sargent’s important canvas owned by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (shown on the book jacket). Like Sargent, Boit was an expat painter living in Paris in the 1880s, where he became friends with Sargent and with the famed novelist Henry James. We are then swept into the full-...
  • Lori
    I have long loved this painting. When I lived in Boston I would often walk to the MFA and spend time with it, and had a print of it over the mantle at home. This book is exactly what is promised, a biography of the painting. It encompasses the lives of the Boit family members; tells the story of what happened to each of the girls and their parents;, gives us context of where Sargent was developmentally and socially before and when he painted it; ...
  • Mark Abramson
    Learned a lot from this well written about Sargent, the Boit family, and the painting of the 4 daughters. The authors did a nice job of teasing out details from limited available sources. One quibble was that many of Sargent’s other art pieces and the works of other artists are mentioned in the book, but the only painting provided in an appendix is the subject painting of the Boit daughters. I found myself reading with my iPad and googling artw...
  • Sue
    Always admired this painting at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Read this for an Art book club. Was interesting to learn about the famous ex-pat painter John singer Sargent and the young Boit sisters he'd painted in that iconic portrait. However, lost steam after my initial thrill and trudged through the remainder.
  • Madame Jane
    The Daughters of Edward Boit is a mysterious painting. The history is fascinating. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is about the daughters themselves: Florie, Mary, Isa and Julia. They are forever immortalized in one of the greatest paintings ever created.
  • Susan Raines
    3.5 stars, actually. An interesting read, even though (as the author acknowledges) a lack of documentation about the Boit family and the daughters in particular means there's a good bit of surmising at times based on other, unrelated sources.
  • Sandy
  • Colleen
    Too much speculation about the family, a lot about Sargeant's travels, then more speculation about the artist.
  • Irene
    After reading about this book in The Boston Globe, I was thrilled to be able to pick up a copy while visiting the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). It's not exactly a page-turner, but it certainly shed light on the painting, the artist, and the subjects. As titled, the book is a biography of the painting, not the artist, and so we learn only as much about Sargent himself as is necessary to describe the context of the painting. The book includes m...
  • Keith
    What an interesting idea, to pair a biography of the subjects of a famous painting with the story of the artist and his creation of the painting. This may be a common idea in art history but it was a novelty for me. That the painting is one of my great favorites, John Singer Sargent's "The Daughters of Henry Darley Boit," was the inevitable hook. Anyone who has examined this painting in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston may have the same fascinat...
  • Becky
    When I first saw The Daughters of Edward D. Boit as a young adolescent, I was convinced that in a former life I had been Louisa Boit, the child seated in the foreground, looking the viewer squarely in the eye. But apparently, I am only one of legions of people who have responded very emotionally to this stunning work of art. MFA Curator Erica Hirshler was inspired by museum visitors' intense reactions and has written what she dubs, "the biography...
  • Mary Ahern
    Written as a biography of the famous painting by John Singer Sargent, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, this book uses a source material personal letters, public writings as well as historic records. The material surrounds the little girls who were the models, the family and many of their family friends who were famous in their own time. Since the Boit family moved frequently throughout Europe and parts of America, the story is fleshed out wit...
  • Bobby
    This painting has been of great interest to me since I first saw it in an art text as a sophomore Ina college, almost 25 years ago. Hirshler's text allows access to the painting, to the complicated lives of the Boit family, and to the successes of John Singer Sargent. I love knowing the details of this painting, it's current location, and it's incredible travels across the Atlantic several times in the late 19th c. Personally, Julia the youngest ...
  • Sally
    An exhaustive study of one of Sargent's best-known paintings by a senior curator at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The book also examines Sargent's career; the career of another ex-patriate American painter, Edward Darley Boit, whose daughters were the models for the portrait; the history of the Boit family; and the Parisian social and artistic milieu that served as the setting for the portrait. While the book was fascinating, I felt that it pro...
  • Erika
    This book ended up not being what I was expecting and I think all the more interesting for that.I expected this book to be more about John Singer Sargent himself and his work on the titled painting but instead it focused far more on the Boit family, the culture the artist was working in and how it influenced his work and vice versa and the impact and life the painting had beyond it's creation. It's easy to forget today how radical and controversi...
  • Catherine Hurst
    Since "Daughters" is one of my favorite paintings, I liked this book--because I learned so much about the painting and the subjects. That said, however, I think the author tried to make the book both academic and popular, and it's a little too "academic" for popular taste, in my opinion. The chapters on the art reviews were a little tedious, there were too many footnotes, and the ending was anticlimactic. Nowhere near as good a read as "Strapless...
  • Rob
    Interesting for those interested in art and art history. The period is of interest to me, as my artist grandmother studied in Paris. Also, the 8th grade art trip connects with the focus on one painting that "tells a story." The idea is to take this one enigmatic painting and learn as much as possible about it - about Sargent, about the culture of the times, the girls themselves and their ex-pat., forever unsettled family. A limitation is that not...
  • Emily
    Hirshler looks at Sargent's famous painting of the Boit daughters from every possible angle -- artistic, cultural, psychological, and biographical. I enjoyed reading it, because I love the painting, and found the examination of the late 19th century American ex-patriot experience interesting. Ultimately though, while it's a lovely concept for a book, it comes up a little thin, because so little is actually known about the creation of the work and...
  • Ingrid
    This book is the biography of Sargent's famous painting at the Museum of Fine Arts. The author gives information on Sargent, the Boit sisters and their family as well as how the painting came into the possession of the MFA. Parts of this book were quite interesting, but parts of the book were very detailed and I found myself skimming those sections. I think that I would only recommend this book to people who were art history majors in college or ...
  • Susan Liston
    This is a pretty little book of the sort you would buy in the museum gift shop and then never actually read. I bought it online and did actually read it, and it is what it says, the biography of the painting. It is interesting enough, without being spellbinding. If one would wish to cheat, the pertinent information is covered by the author in this lecture:
  • Carol Bundy
    I really enjoyed the idea of this book. Hirshler is a great writer, and I found reading the book fascinating but I was frustrated that she had to rely so heavily on Bob Boit's diary for her material. As a result the book didn't flow as I would have liked it to. Even so, I'm very interested in how Hirshler used a painting to begin a historical investigation.