I have always loved the paintings of John Singer Sargent.Like a lot of artists I have wondered how did he paint like that?Whilst there are a few quotes of him available(-for example here:
there seems to be no really clear step by step instruction as to how he executed his work technically-that I can find.This led me to do what I usually do when I'm trying to figure out how an artist might construct their work and that is actually look carefully at their work and try to retrace their steps.Out of sheer curiosity I took some John Singer Sargent images courtesy of the John Singer Sargent Gallery website(
changed them in photoshop trying to guess how he may have painted these pictures layer by layer from what he finished with to what he started with.I think its a fairly reasonable guess to say he often started with the larger masses and ends up painting the smallest details and accents.Whilst the execution of every painting is different and these slides on the link below don't indicate for example how his colours bleed into each other and his approach to specific shapes they do suggest his approach as one that starts with large masses and leads to smaller masses.The unfinished face in the first slide which looks like he never completed confirms this.
My attempts at guesswork are included here.
Whether I am right or not who knows?- but it was an interesting experiment for me.