In the 1880s, early in John Singer Sargent's career, he confronted a dilemma when painting children's portraits for wealthy English patrons. The artist, born in Italy to American parents, had studied art in Paris then practiced in France. But his then-audacious portrait of an expatriate woman, “Madame X,” forced him to migrate to England, where the choice of child portraiture proved a decisive step in his career. But should he continue along the line of the sentimentalizing portraits ...

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