Re: Glenn Dixon’s review of the John Singer Sargent exhibition at the National Gallery (“Ecce Homo,” 4/2): It’s exasperating to see a critic focus on an artist’s sexuality to the exclusion of nearly all worthwhile questions, such as how well the guy can paint. And even the question of sexuality, in this case, gets very lopsided treatment.
It may well be that Sargent’s Gassed mural includes depictions of male beauty, but that’s hardly surprising. He was commissioned to paint an idealized scene of soldierswho in World War I were generally young, trim, and male. Dixon seems oblivious, meanwhile, to Sargent’s dozens of breathtaking renderings of female beauty. Unlike Michelangelo, who painted women as men with breasts, Sargent gives us women who are thoroughly and seductively feminine. Even if the guy had homosexual tendenciesand there’s no hard evidence that he didwe do know from his paintings that he deeply understood the attractiveness of women.
A fair and balanced review would have acknowledged at least that much. Dixon, apparently, feels only the zealot’s need to march another artist into the homosexual pantheon.