William Sergeant Kendall

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William Sergeant Kendall specialized in painting his daughters and wife. He was born at Spuyten Duyvil, which in 1869 was a picturesque village of tree-lined streets by the Harlem River, as yet unincorporated into New York City. Summers were frequently spent at Clarkesville, NY, where Kendall hunted in the Helderberg Mountains and, at the age of 12, created his first paintings. When he was still a boy he dropped the use of his first name and began signing his work Sergeant Kendall, using his mother's family name.

....Kendall's adoption of a nonspecific light source that eliminated most shadows removed him from the impressionist influences that so many of his American contemporaries embraced. It is probable that he arrived at this technique by observing the diffused light in canvases of Jules Bastien

Americans have never felt entirely comfortable with paintings of the nude. Perhaps Kendall's nudes were so well liked because they often showed children and were therefore removed from sexual context. Many of the nude paintings are so precisely painted that they approach drawing as closely as painting can. This is certainly one of the reasons why Kcndall liked painting the nude, for clothing, after all, creates an ambiguous outline.

Kendall made numerous preparatory drawings and sometimes created a complete pastel version, as he did for A Fairy Tale. Although he made corrections in anatomy and design before beginning to paint, his canvases still usually took him months to complete. Like many artists of the period, Kendall relied on portraits for part of his income. His sitters included Helen Huntington (later Mrs. Vincent Astor) and President William Howard Taft, although posing for him was apparently no easy task. Helen Huntington sat 24 times before Kendall considered her full-length portrait finished. His usual fee for a full-length portrait was $4,000; a head alone was $1,500; head and hands, $2,000, and a half-length portrait, $3,000.
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First Collected by

Suzan Hamer

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38539

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