At the heart of Margarett Sargent's life lies a mystery, lost in silence. Why does a woman who has devoted herself to making art, stop?
A marvelously gifted painter, Sargent spent much of her life smashing convention. She was born into stultifying privilege in the age of Edith Wharton, but sought another life--and as the American art world shuddered under the impact of Modernism, Margarett was hurling bright colors onto canvas, forging her own unique style.
For a time, she seemed capable of everything: raising the ideal children, perfecting her art, hosting the most daring parties, conducting the most outrageous affairs, drinking more than anyone else. Whispered rumors and tales of her audacious wit trailed from Brahmin Boston to New York to Paris. But drink was becoming her best companion; it smoothed the awkward clashes between society wife and creative artist, and no one saw that the exuberant appetites of a charismatic woman concealed a creeping paralysis of will. When, after twenty years of successful exhibitions, it seemed she was finally to be accepted on her own terms as a painter, she cjose to lay down her brushes.
Margarett, October 1915
(Photographed in New York by Arnold Genthe)