Study of Three Figures was likely painted around the time that John Singer Sargent was completing his art training, and depicts an ordinary occurrence in the life of a Paris studio: the hired models, taking a break between sessions, have temporarily dropped their prescribed poses. The painting reveals Sargent’s interest in studio models as more than anonymous laborers paid to strike a pose, but as active contributors to the artistic enterprise. In contrast to the professional passivity of an artist’s model, the young boy at center actively engages the viewer. With one hand resting on a stool, the other folded back on his hip, he crosses his ankles to strike a calculatedly casual stance. Charmed by the irony of the model’s attitude, Sargent produced a genre scene that behaves like a portrait, capturing the natural indifference of an adolescent boy.
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