Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind The Canvas by Donna M. LuceySargent's Women: Four Lives Behind The Canvas by Donna M. Lucey

Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind The Canvas

byDonna M. Lucey

Hardcover | August 22, 2017

Pricing and Purchase Info

$31.38 online 
$39.95 list price save 21%
Earn 157 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores


In this seductive, multilayered biography, based on original letters and diaries, Donna M. Lucey illuminates four extraordinary women painted by the iconic high-society portraitist John Singer Sargent. With uncanny intuition, Sargent hinted at the mysteries and passions that unfolded in his subjects’ lives.

Elsie Palmer traveled between her father’s Rocky Mountain castle and the medieval English manor house where her mother took refuge, surrounded by artists, writers, and actors. Elsie hid labyrinthine passions, including her love for a man who would betray her. As the veiled Sally Fairchild—beautiful and commanding—emerged on Sargent’s canvas, the power of his artistry lured her sister, Lucia, into a Bohemian life. The saintly Elizabeth Chanler embarked on a surreptitious love affair with her best friend’s husband. And the iron-willed Isabella Stewart Gardner scandalized Boston society and became Sargent’s greatest patron and friend.

Like characters in an Edith Wharton novel, these women challenged society’s restrictions, risking public shame and ostracism. All had forbidden love affairs; Lucia bravely supported her family despite illness, while Elsie explored Spiritualism, defying her overbearing father. Finally, the headstrong Isabella outmaneuvered the richest plutocrats on the planet to create her own magnificent art museum.

These compelling stories of female courage connect our past with our present—and remind us that while women live differently now, they still face obstacles to attaining full equality.

Donna M. Lucey, author of the best-selling Archie and Amélie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age and other books, recipient of two NEH grants, and a 2017 writer-in-residence at Edith Wharton’s the Mount, is media editor at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
Title:Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind The CanvasFormat:HardcoverDimensions:320 pages, 9.6 × 6.43 × 1.09 inPublished:August 22, 2017Publisher:WW NortonLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0393079031

ISBN - 13:9780393079036

Look for similar items by category:


Editorial Reviews

In Sargent’s Women . . . Lucey does . . . what she does best, creating a rollicking snow globe version of an almost unimaginable world of wealth, crackpot notions of self-improvement and high-flying self-indulgence. — Amy Bloom (New York Times Book Review)[A] lyrical meditation on life, love, and art in the Gilded Age. . . . Sargent’s Women abounds with dazzling characters in atmospheric settings. . . . As rich as [Sargent’s] portraits are, the textural evidence in which Ms. Lucey ensnares them is finer still. — Jane Kamensky (Wall Street Journal)[Lucey] delivers the goods, disclosing the unhappy or colorful lives that Sargent sometimes hinted at but didn’t spell out. . . . Sargent’s Women is a good read . . . [and its] chatty pleasures are considerable. — Michael Upchurch (Boston Globe)Sargent's Women has . . . a good deal to say about life among affluent women with brains and talents beyond the Victorian strictures of their time. . . . Lucey wisely concentrates her attention on these women who epitomized their class and times. — Bruce Jacobs, Watermark Books & CafeChoosing four striking Sargent portraits of wealthy, cosmopolitan American women, Lucey vividly reveals the hidden truths of their tumultuous lives, while also succinctly telling the artist’s own intriguing story. . . . Lucey’s superlative group portrait, rendered in crystal-clear prose, is spring-fed by . . . her keen insights into what drove these women to break out of their gilded cages. — Booklist (starred review)[Lucey’s] narrative is engaging and elegant, set in a rich cultural and social framework that insightfully reflects the era. — Library Journal (starred review)Endlessly intriguing. . . . Lucey ably pulls these four compelling women out of obscurity with insight and infectious enthusiasm. — Publishers WeeklyPerceptive . . . colorful, animated portraits sympathetically rendered. — Kirkus ReviewsFor as long as I can remember, I have stared into the eyes of the subjects in John Singer Sargent’s paintings—often beautiful, young, seemingly unknowable women—and wondered who they were and what their lives had held. With her powerful and probing new book, Sargent’s Women, Donna Lucey has answered that haunting question, and the truth behind the paintings is far more stunning and fascinating than I had ever imagined. — Candice Millard, best-selling author of Hero of the Empire