Customer Reviews for

Strapless

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2005

    Great Book for Sargent Fans and Others

    I've long been a fan of John Singer Sargent and wanted to know more about him. Stanley Olsen's 'JSS- His Portrait' is atrocious - dry and boring as all heck - but Davis' book was fantastic. First time author? Can't wait for more.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2003

    Sensational! I felt I was right there in Paris watching it all happen.

    Madame X will always be a little mysterious-that's part of her charm. But this book does a great job of bringing the woman and her world to life. I was fascinated by all the details about life in Paris and I thought Davis did a great job of making all that art interesting and understandable. I loved it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2003

    The Magnificent Sargeant and his Amelie

    Highly lucid and packed with juicy tidbits set into their proper historical context, this is a wonderfully readable tale of a vain woman (the inevitable product of her times)and an amazingly talented painter. Ms Davis puts us there with them. The beautiful reproductions add immeasurably to our understanding of the paintings. A gift for anyone interested in art, or for lovers of historical fiction, as it reads like the best of that genre. I put it in a class with Anna Karenina, Portrait of a Lady and the Red and the Black for describing the upper class Europeans' lives at different points in history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2013

    Recommended for art lovers and historians

    This history is a wonderful recount of social mores,in addition to being an enticing account of the background behind John Singer Sargent's chef-d'œuvre. Truly a font for book-club discussion, we can marvel over life as it was, while questioning our progress in modern times.

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  • Posted February 27, 2012

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    According to surrounding lore, Sargent initially painted "Madame X" with the right strap of her black gown slipping off of her shoulder.When the painting debuted at the 1884 Salon in Paris ( the place to have a painting displayed at the time and a good signifier of current or future artistic success) it created an uproar, so scandalous was the pose. Indeed, facing numerous charges of the painting's indecency, Sargent eventually repainted the strap sitting firmly, and properly, on Madame's shoulder.

    Pursuing my art history minor in New York City I had the amazing opportunity to see "Madame X" in person at the Metropolitan Museum. The painting has always had a special place in my heart for, if nothing else, the drama associated with its debut. So I was very pleased when a copy of Deborah Davis' book Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X (2004) fell into my lap.

    Part historical research, part biography, part social commentary, part feminist text, Deborah Davis handles a lot of material in a relatively small volume (320 pages with font of average size and relevant pictures included). One of the reasons Davis decided to research this particular painting and its subject is because so little information remains about Virginie Amelie Gautreau, her life, or how Sargent came to paint her scandalous portrait.

    While "Madame X" eventually catapulted Sargent into the artistic canon and toward immortality, the portrait likely led to Gautreau's ruin and her obscurity. In her book, Davis tries to set the record straight, portraying Gautreau as the powerful, savvy woman she was before a bare shoulder changed her social standing forever.

    My library system catalogs this book as a biography of John Singer Sargent, which for a lot of reasons is the logical choice. However, really, most of the book is spent looking at the life of Sargent's subject and patron: Madame Gautreau.

    The book traces Gautreau's family history, her migration from New Orleans to Paris (where she became a quasi-celebrity along the lines of Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton virtually overnight at the tender age of twenty-three), and perhaps most interestingly just how much work went into being a beautiful woman in Paris in the 1880s. No details escapes Davis' examination as she looks at the clothing, finances, indeed the very persona Gautreau had to cultivate to live the decadent lifestyle she became accustomed to.

    The strong point in Strapless is when Davis sticks to such facts: how Gautreau lived, why Sargent would want to paint her, what happened at the Salon when "Madame X" debuted. Davis also expertly outlines the tenuous, and often stressful, patron-artisan relationships that Sargent and artists like him had to cultivate in order to eke out a living with their brush.

    The momentum flags when Davis veers into the hypothetical wondering if Sargent might have been in love with Gautreau, torn between her and one of his young proteges. While the theory is interesting, it does remain a theory very akin to the conspiracy theories so often found in research on the Titanic.

    That aside, Strapless is a remarkably well-done book. The thorough research shows through without dulling the writing. Davis' text is conversational and very accessible--more so, it must be said, than many writings found in the field of art history. An excellent book on art history for enthusiasts and art historians alike.

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  • Posted January 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Intersting and Well Written -- Easy Read

    I'm taking a class in American Art History so this was an interesting adjunct to my studies. The book has an easy-to-read style and the story is fascinating. About the collision of two people: the artist and the sitter and how their lives were impacted and diverged by the portrait. And you don't have to be an art history aficionado to enjoy it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2004

    A Wonderful Book

    I'm not a lover of non-fiction, but Strapless reads like a novel -- better than a novel because it is all true. It was so interesting to learn the details of life in Paris and to get acquainted with Sargent's amazing painting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2003

    Magnificent Artist; Poor Author

    This was a very disappointing book! Thankfully the author gives credit to her researchers,which pretty much leaves her with credit for nothing. What an opportunity lost! Sargent was a magnificent talent! Madam X was certainlly an interesting story, with big names and scandals enough for a soap opera. Yet the author wrote neither a good novel nor a good biography. The writng is so bad it is irritating to read. The organization and structure is even worse. The book does not even inlude a list of illustrations! Size information is available for only the color prints, and this information is tucked away in the back of the book. Framing is only referred to once--the missing original frame for Madam X which apparently disappeared after the painting was removed from it for shipping to California. All the way around, this lady needs to restrict her writing to Hollywood, leaving the art world alone--if this is her best effort.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2003

    Surprisingly good and beautiful to look at!

    I thought Strapless would be an art book, so I was surprised to read a colorful account of a really interesting scandal. The characters are fascinating and very much like people today. The book also has gorgeous reproductions of Sargent's works.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2003

    I loved it

    I found Strapless to be smart,informative and full of colorful anecdotes. I never thought about this painting before, but now I won't stop thinking about it. Hats off to Davis for a great book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2003

    A Head of Its Time

    Strapless is a wonderful book, well-written and just the cup of tea for art lovers and information junkies alike. With a deft hand, Davis fills us in on the lives of John Singer Sargent and his prize subject, Virginie Amelie Gautreau; and moves on to color in the many friends and acquaintances of each of them the way an artist fills in his/her palette. Extraordinarily well researched, Strapless is an enjoyable read; and when it's over, we have gained invaluable insight into the chiaroscura of an Age.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2003

    I wish someone else had written it!

    Such a good story, but I am sorry that it was put forth by this author, who lacks so much of the insight and scholarship needed. It was interesting to note in the author's bio that she is a former movie exec and story analyst, professions known for skimming over big topics and a strained, lackluster imagination. Sadly, I think this applies to the book's writing as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2012

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    Posted October 5, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

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