"This is perhaps one of the finest examples of portraiture there is. The whole painting shimmers. Most striking of all, however, is Lady Agnew's direct gaze. She stares at the viewer almost in sexual defiance. This says so much about the character of the woman: her directness, her bold yet innocent sexuality. It is hard to believe this was painted in the late 1800s. It has the essence of ‘now'."
Brian Cox, actor
"I would be proud to have this painting in my home. It offers a simple appreciation of the shy, confident beauty of Lady Agnew; it is so uncomplicated, yet painted in a masterly fashion."
Sir Jackie Stewart, businessman and former world champion racing driver
Lady Agnew's direct gaze and informal pose, emphasised by the flowing fabric and lilac sash of her dress ensure the portrait's striking impact. Andrew Noel Agnew, a barrister who had inherited the baronetcy and estates of Lochnaw in Galloway, commissioned this painting of his young wife, Gertrude Vernon (1865-1932), in 1892. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1898 and made Sargent's name. The sculptor Rodin described him as 'the Van Dyck of our times'. Portrait commissions poured in and Sargent enjoyed something of a cult following in Edwardian society. It also launched Lady Agnew as a society beauty.
The American artist Sargent became one of the most fashionable and highly successful portrait painters of Edwardian society. He was born in Italy and travelled extensively both in childhood and throughout his career. Sargent trained in Paris and developed a fluid painting style, remarkable for his dazzling brushwork and bold handling of light. He also painted fine landscapes and produced moving and powerful pictures as an official war artist during the First World War. His move to London in 1884 was prompted by the scandal his provocative portrait of Madame Gautreau caused at the Paris Salon.