Portraits of an Artist

A Novel about John Singer Sargent

Fiction - Historical - Personage
326 Pages
Reviewed on 05/03/2014
Buy on Amazon

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Free Book Program, which is open to all readers and is completely free. The author will provide you with a free copy of their book in exchange for an honest review. You and the author will discuss what sites you will post your review to and what kind of copy of the book you would like to receive (eBook, PDF, Word, paperback, etc.). To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Review Exchange Program, which is open to all authors and is completely free. Simply put, you agree to provide an honest review an author's book in exchange for the author doing the same for you. What sites your reviews are posted on (B&N, Amazon, etc.) and whether you send digital (eBook, PDF, Word, etc.) or hard copies of your books to each other for review is up to you. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email, and be sure to describe your book or include a link to your Readers' Favorite review page or Amazon page.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Donation Program, which was created to help nonprofit and charitable organizations (schools, libraries, convalescent homes, soldier donation programs, etc.) by providing them with free books and to help authors garner more exposure for their work. This author is willing to donate free copies of their book in exchange for reviews (if circumstances allow) and the knowledge that their book is being read and enjoyed. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email. Be sure to tell the author who you are, what organization you are with, how many books you need, how they will be used, and the number of reviews, if any, you would be able to provide.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Ioana Marza for Readers' Favorite

Portraits of an Artist is a historical novel focused on three eventful years in the life of American portrait painter John Singer Sargent, years which defined his whole career and future life course. Around 1882, Sargent produced some of his most famous works and the story behind them, the complex relationships between their subjects and the painter, as well as the European artistic background at the time, are described with charm and respect for facts by Mary F. Burns.

Sargent’s talent, the controversy surrounding him, as well as his interesting personality, make an excellent subject for a novel and Mary F. Burns approached it in a clever way. She describes the painter through the eyes of his subjects, who at the same time reveal their own emotions and struggles. Each painting has a story and there is clearly much research behind this. The fact that Burns also includes a copy of each of the portraits within the relevant chapter is a nice touch and I enjoyed looking at them and considering what was suggested about the psychology of their setting, shades, and the little significant details. The cultural lessons do not end there and we’re spoilt with appearances from a series of artists and writers, from Vernon Lee to Henry James.

Similar to Sargent’s character, who had multiple facets described by those close to him, Portraits of an Artist has many complex sides. It is the story of a man striving to succeed in the art that he loves - a deeply passionate yet intelligent man who, beside his natural talent, is very conscious of the carefully constructed way in which a painter living in Paris needed to infiltrate French high society in order to thrive. It is also an account of the nomadic life led by rich American expatriates, travelling around Europe, who become so immersed in its culture and way of life that they end up feeling out of place in their native country. Ultimately, it is a profoundly human story of people who cannot have the one they love, though not for lack of trying.