Although museums in Boston remain closed, The Isabella Stewart Gardner exhibition “Boston’s Apollo: Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent” has been so well received by New York Times co-chief art critic, Holland Cotter, I thought I’d check it out and share it with those of you who love art and in particular are craving something deeper than the “flavor of the week” with Netflix programming.
The small show centers on a rather sensational painting and the unlikely relationship between the artist and his muse, Thomas Eugene McKeller (1890-1962). McKeller was a bellhop and elevator attendant at Boston’s deluxe Hotel Vendome, where Sargent often stayed, and one of the many beautiful men he hired as studio models. Interestingly, Cotter points out that McKeller may have been the only African-American to model for Sargent.
I’m sure nudes of an African American man drawn by a world famous American painter would have seemed outrageous at the time. But what is even more amazing was how McKeller was / is the face of many other famous paintings by Sargent, which until recently nobody knew. It makes me wonder if there was more to the relationship than meets the eye – McKeller certainly was special to be singled out by the artist. For more information, read the NYT article, that initially caught my attention.