Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Paul Julian Smith

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Fine Arts | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies


John Singer Sargent, Spain, Orientalism, Post-Colonial Studies


The aim of this thesis is to present John Singer Sargent's unique vision of Spain as well as to analyze this part of his work through the use of methodologies such as Orientalism and Spanish cultural studies, an approach that has not been undertaken to date.

The thesis intends to demonstrate that Sargent's early paintings -along with those of his American counterparts who traveled to Paris- were strongly motivated by the prevailing cultural orientalism of the moment in France, one of those extensions being the so called españolismo that exacerbated the most stereotyped dimensions of Spanish history and culture.

Undoubtedly, the artist's most iconic work related to Spain is El Jaleo, which could be considered the pinnacle of the portrayal of Spain in the Western imaginary at the end of the XIX century. However, despite the great success obtained by this canvas, the artist rarely portrayed images with this subject matter again. On the contrary, he refrained from depicting images as highly topic-oriented as this one, being aware that by doing so he was perpetuating a stereotyped image of Spain. This idea is at the core of our thesis, which will try to demonstrate Sargent deliberately rejected this colonial vision of Spain and focused on realistic and aestheticized representations of the country.