In 1916, John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) met Thomas Eugene McKeller (1890-1962) a young African American elevator attendant at Boston’s Hotel Vendome. McKeller became the principal model for Sargent’s murals in the new wing of the Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, among the painter’s most ambitious works. Sargent’s nude studies and sketches from this project attest to a close collaboration between the two men that unfolded over nearly ten years. Featuring drawings given by Sargent to Isabella Stewart Gardner and published in full for the first time, a portrait of McKeller, and archival materials reconstructing his life and relationship with Sargent, this book opens new avenues into artist-model relationships and transforms our understanding of Sargent’s iconic American paintings. Essays offer the first biography of Thomas McKeller and a window into African America life in early 20th century Roxbury. They address the artist’s sexuality, his models, and consider questions of race and gender.
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