By Mark Beard
Originally published on Advocate.com October 16 2010 3:00 AM ET
New York–based artist Mark Beard has devoted the last two decades to exploring and amassing the work of Bruce Sargeant (1898–1938), a painter whose work idealized and celebrated the beauty of the male form. Had Sargeant not met a tragic and unexpected end in a wrestling accident, he may have gone on to the heights now enjoyed by artists such as James McNeill Whistler; instead, his oeuvre remained hidden for years and is only now being brought to light, with works still being discovered.
Prized in elite gallery circles and salons in Europe and the United States, Sargeant’s work has never been featured in a major art-historical survey until now. His subtly toned oil paintings of young men engaged in sports and other leisure activities are reminiscent of classic figure painting, highlighting his beaux arts training, yet their gentle elegance continues to speak to contemporary audiences through Abercrombie & Fitch’s installations of Sargeant’s work in its flagship stores worldwide.
An exhibition at ClampArt in New York City coincides with the release of Beard’s book Bruce Sargeant and His Circle. In addition to essays and plates showcasing Sargeant’s breadth of interests, both in his artistic studies and in the men he painted, the book examines his artistic circle — his teacher, Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon; his friend and colleague Edith Cromwell; archrival Brechtholdt Streeruwitz; and Peter Coulter, one of the many artists indirectly influenced by this salon. A foreword by Thomas Sokolowski, director of the Andy Warhol Museum, appropriately places Sargeant in the pantheon of 20th-century figure painters, and the afterword by W.M. Hunt draws favorable parallels between Sargeant’s glorification of the male body and the work of photographers Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber, among others. Further, various texts by dealers, museum trustees, and art aficionados offer insights and remembrances about this prolific circle.
"Bruce Sargeant and His Circle" Exhibition:
ClampArt, 521-531 25th St., New York, NY, through October 30