John Singer Sargent’s painting, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, stands as one of the most notable paintings produced by an American artist. The painting depicts four young girls who were the daughters of Edward Darley Boit lounging about in their family’s Paris apartment. Sargent was already a well-known painter and friend of the Boit family when he painted it in 1882. Today, the painting resides in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts that can be seen at the Art of the Americas Wing.
At first glance, viewers notice four girls posed around oversized Chinese jardinières within their domestic household setting. Upon closer inspection, it is evident that each girl has a unique age and character presented naturally without posing. However, more profound themes on this landmark portrait emerge upon analyzing its surrounding contents further.
Sargent was either commissioned to paint or suggested for by Boit himself to paint his daughters’ portrait while living abroad as an ex-patriot from Boston with his wife Mary Louisa Cushing Boit. In any case, Sargent’s abilities shone through in capturing natural gestures and compositions while illustrating themes questioning societal norms’ representations regarding wealthy women emerging out West near San Francisco during this era within America’s history through his choice and inclusion of props such as massive Chinese vases.