Contemporary portrait artist Juan Bastos carries on the tradition of John Singer Sargent.

Social History: Contemporary portrait artist Juan Bastos carries on the tradition of  John Singer Sargent.

“A number of Juan Bastos’ portraits remind me of [John Singer] Sargent.”
Gore Vidal

YouTube video on the Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (originally titled Portraits d’enfants). A painting by John Singer Sargent.

(Left: Gore Vidal’s painting by Juan Bastos)

Juan Bastos has the unique quality of John Singer Sargent in his captivating society portraits of children and adults.

Many of Bastos’ paintings conjure up an earlier epoch, a more gracious and leisurely age, when people embarked on grand tours, collecting bibelots along the way and having their likenesses rendered by the leading painters of the day.

Portraiture is on the rise.

The sophistication and formality of earlier masters has lately cropped up in the works of leading contemporary portrait painters such as Bastos.

(Left: Luke and Patrick by Bastos)

His skills, and those of his peers, are feverishly sought after by clients who just a few years ago would no sooner have commissioned a portrait than they would stay home on New Year’s Eve.

During most of postwar art history, portraiture of prominent subjects, and especially commissioned portraits, were associated with fawning, sentimentalized images of children clutching flowers, crusty dowagers and overfed captains of industry.

Donald Trump by unknown artist; Mrs. Post with (actress) daughter Dina Merrill by portrait artist Julius Van Blass.

Just after Donald Trump bought Mar-a-Lago, I visited the former estate of socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post.

Trump, the entrepreneur and “assistant maker” reality TV show star, had his society portrait hanging in the rotunda directly across from a very formal painting of Palm Beach’s grand dame.

It appeared as if Trump’s portrait represented “new” society attempting to meet the “old” society’s Post Toasties heiress.

(Famous personalities painted by Juan Bastos.)

But the genre, once the art world’s fallen woman, has dusted itself off and reclaimed its respectability.

Now everyone from Joan Rivers to Madonna to Donna Karen wants to be immortalized in oil.

(Left: Penelope – The Annunciation by Bastos)

Penelope Weld, a New York social figure was quoted in the NY Times saying:” Most of these people don’t have ancestors or family portraits — but you’ve got to start somewhere.” Ms. Weld commissioned a portrait of herself by Bastos. He captures people’s sense of history. They want to connect with the century they’re in.

For some people, sitting for a portrait is an act of self-expression, something like having a couture dress designed or a room lavishly redecorated. For others, however, a sitting can be more profound. Ms. Weld, who elected to pose in the attitude of the Annunciation, said the painting, which hangs behind a curtain in her Upper West Side living room, meant for her eyes only, was symbolic, intended to celebrate the fact that she was receptive to her own creative impulses.

For more information on Juan Bastos click here to visit his website.


About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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