Portrait of Joseph Bangs Warner signed 'John S. Sargent' (lower left) and dated '1913' (lower right) charcoal on paper 24 x 19in
PROVENANCE: Joseph Bangs Warner, the sitter Roger S. Warner, by descent
EXHIBITED: Boston, Massachusetts, Copley Hall, The Copley Society, Portraits of Living Painters, March 1914 Boston, Massachusetts, Fogg Art Museum, no. 4, 1923. Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, A Centennial Exhibition: Sargent's Boston, January 3-February 7, 1956, p.128
The drawing is accompanied by a four page letter by Sargent's friend, the noted ex-patriot writer Henry James.
Henry James had known Sargent since at least 1885 when he first sat for the artist. James was apparently helpful in introducing Sargent to a number of his future sitters. Sargent was later to paint the author in a half-length oil painting in 1913 though a commission was arranged through James' friends including Edith Wharton, however, the fact that Sargent would be receiving payment for painting a friend caused a bit of a stir. This could explain James' encouragement to look at this as an 'earned of expensive "larks"' (see Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent:The Later Portraits, New Haven, Connecticut and London 2003, p.228-231.)
In the letter to the sitter's son Langdon Warner, James appears to have arranged a sitting with the artist but has to explain Sargent's recent raise in price due to the increased demand for his charcoals.
Curiously, the letter is dated on the Fourth of July and James annotates it with a 'Hooray.' Perhaps this is an expression on kinship with a fellow American abroad or a bit of irony considering he was to become a British subject within the next two years.
A partial transcription reads: July 4th (Hooray!)/1913
My dear Langdon,
I have had to wait to see Sargent, & that has made a little delay in this very high pressure of London. But it is all righthe will with pleasure do a charcoal "one sitting"(so-called) head of your Father- which fact, please tell the latter, also much rejoices me. But he mentioned to me that he has lately had, absolutely had, to raise the figure of his fee- to Seventy Pounds: this by reason that on the lower figure (whatever it was) he found himself so submerged in applications that he was doing charcoal heads all day long. I hope however that the exorbitance (which isn't that-for what one mainly gets) won't in your father's case be prohibitive. Give him my love & tell him to take it simply as the most lawful & earned of expensive "larks" on his part, & all will be well... Henry James