John Singer Sargent
Wilfrid de Glehn first met John Singer Sargent in the purpose-built studio constructed by Edwin Austin Abbey in the grounds of Morgan Hall, Fairford, in Gloucestershire. Abbey hired de Glehn as his assistant while Wilfrid was still a student in Paris and the two men were working on their ambitious decorative mural cycles for the Boston Public Library. Abbey’s chosen subject was The Quest for the Holy Grail, while Sargent chose the theme of The Triumph of Religion.
The precise nature of Wilfrid’s involvement in the project and its impact on his art remains a matter of some speculation. De Glehn accompanied Sargent to Boston on a number of occasions to help with installation and it was during one of these trips that he met his future wife, Jane Erin Emmet.
John Singer Sargent, 1856-1925
Edwin Austin Abbey, c. 1889, pencil
Jane Emmet de Glehn, 1873-1961
Wilfrid de Glehn, Sargent and the composer, Percy Grainger,
at the piano
Contemporary writers were quick to attribute de Glehn’s continuing taste for decorative compositions to this long period of “apprenticeship” to Abbey, even though we never find any trace of Shakespearean or Medieval subjects in his oeuvre. Sargent’s murals were such a popular success in Boston that another commission swiftly followed for the Museum of Fine Arts in 1916. The neo-classical interior demanded classical themes—Eros and Psyche, The Three Graces and Dancing Figures—and the decorations Sargent produced for this project were more to Wilfrid’s taste. We find echoes of them in his academy exhibits of the 1920s.
Bas-Reliefs for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston by John Singer Sargent, c. 1916;
Left: Dancing Figures; Right: Cupid and Psyche
Edwin Austin Abbey, 1852-1911
King Lear: Cordelia's Farewell