I Chronicle, I Do Not Judge: John Singer Sargent, Artist of a Changing World


John Singer Sargent is best known as the brilliant painter of Edwardian High Society, introducing his sitters to themselves and their world in paintings which celebrated their wealth and glamour in oil paint equally rich and dashing. But the full story of his achievements is far more diverse and complicated than that description allows. 

Born American, growing up all over Europe and trained in Paris, Sargent’s was a truly cosmopolitan talent; making his home and his career in England he never lost his keen outsider’s eye for the whims and vagaries of society, and his portraits were noted even among his admirers for their unsettling tendency to go deeper than simply appreciative observation. Watching the world was his true passion and he also loved to paint vibrant, sunlit landscapes which challenge comparison with the work of the Impressionist friends of his Parisian youth. He also had an unexpected enthusiasm for mural painting which found expression in ambitious works for the Boston Library and Museum of Art, where his expertly choreographed and powerfully symbolic compositions brought him both controversy and deep personal satisfaction. And when the society he had immortalised fell apart on the killing fields of France and Flanders, Sargent was still there: his images of gassed soldiers - and of the generals who commanded them to their less-than-glorious deaths - as closely observed and sharply pointed as ever.  

Through the study of Sargent’s works and career this day school explores a remarkable and multi-talented painter whose claim that “I chronicle, I do not judge” does not begin to do justice to his powerful record of the extraordinary and rapidly changing times in which he lived.

Programme details

Registration at Rewley House reception (in-person attendees only)

The truth of him was - he painted
Introducing John Singer Sargent 


Taking your face in your hands
Sitting to Sargent 


Painting what I want or what I must
Landscapes, murals and the artist at war


See the sunlight
Sargent, his achievement and legacy

End of day


Description Costs
Course Fee - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £99.00
Course Fee - virtual attendance £90.00
Baguette lunch £6.50
Hot lunch (3 courses) £17.60


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Justine Hopkins

Justine Hopkins read English and Drama at Bristol University, followed by an MA at the Courtauld Institute. After a year as an archaeological illustrator, she took a PhD at Birkbeck College exploring relationships between science, religion and landscape painting in the nineteenth century. Her biography of twentieth-century painter and sculptor Michael Ayrton appeared in 1994. She has contributed articles to a wide variety of periodicals and dictionaries; her latest article, on Serb sculptor Ivan Meštrović, appeared in Sculpture Journal last year. She works as a freelance lecturer in Art History for institutions including the Victoria and Albert Museum and Oxford and Cambridge Universities; she is a registered lecturer for the Arts Society.


Please use the 'Book' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email res-ctr@conted.ox.ac.uk for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this event. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.