Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw - 1892

The de Young museum, in San Francisco, is currently exhibiting some art from the National Gallery of Scotland, and in this exhibit is the famous portrait by John Singer Sargent; Lady Agnew of Lochnaw.


The portrait is exquisite. Nestled in the painting description is a phrase which gave me pause; "She is featured here at the age of twenty-seven years, purportedly during a period when she was convalescing from nervous exhaustion."  Nervous exhaustion is not a current day diagnostic term, so what are they talking about?



Apparently, in 1869, nervous exhaustion was a term first used by George Beard's, a Neurologist, to describe a condition of fatigue, anxiety, and depressed mood.

I then wondered if this was the same descriptive text used at the Scottish National Gallery. It is not.


The Scottish museum's audio does, however, mention that Lady Agnew was suffering from a long illness at this time, but also declares that she was a quite a feisty individual and would be described as a new woman of the late 19th century. Here is some additional information about this beautiful painting.


What I loved about this portrait was the artist was able to successfully communicate a feeling and even a personality to this portrait. As we all know, any art that moves us does this by communicating a feeling in the artwork. This is one of those pieces. This portrait is so much more than just a person sitting and posing; you are able to know and relate to the person who was delicately placed inside that canvas.