About Margarett McKean (Sargent)
Margarett Sargent (1892-1978)
was a Boston-born society woman, the fourth cousin of John Singer Sargent, and a lover or confidant of such diverse figures as Jane Bowles, George Luks, Betty Parsons, Berenice Abbott, Harpo Marx and Fanny Brice. She was, one gathers, a party girl who was plagued by alcoholism and mental breakdown in her later life. She was also a painter of genuine talent who, in a relatively brief period of productivity, from the early '20s to 1936, created a striking portrait of the privileged milieu in which she moved.
Her paintings contain strong echoes of Matisse, but they have an edgy quality which is far from the sunny ebullience that has made that master such a popular attraction. Color values often seem deliberately dissonant, and many paintings are dominated by a sallow shade of green-yellow that invades skin tones and gives Sargent's subjects the aura of creatures that thrive only in artificial light.
The portrait was Sargent's genre, with representations of society belles, dandies in evening dress, chorus girls and mannish women in tweeds and berets. Sargent's usual subjects exude a self-confidence and, at times, a self-dramatization, that marks their privileged social origins. At the same time, an underlying uneasiness pervades many of the paintings.