John Singer Sargent's portraits have always appealed to me although I had not thought much about them, what their appeal was, into what "school" Sargent could be classified, whether he is still highly regarded by the art world today.
Elizabeth Prettejohn's Interpreting Sargent, which was published in conjunction with the Sargent exhibit at the National Gallery in 2000, discusses all this and more, providing us with a fairly objective modern look at a painter whose reputation had apparently been declining for decades before this show. I saw that retrospective and I'm not sure why I didn't pick up this book as it's reasonable in price and filled with insightful observations about Sargent's French, English, and American portraits and how they differ.
When he was in his prime, around 1900, to be painted by Sargent was an expensive proposition. A single, full-length portrait cost more than the equivalent of $100,000 today. It was trendy at that time to have paintings of three sisters or a mother and two children and these of course would cost rather more. Asher Wertheimer, whose portrait Singer painted in 1898, was so pleased with that work that he commissioned 10 or 11 more paintings from Singer. Wertheimer gave all of them to the nation (England) when he died.
Pettejohn tells us almost all of them have been in storage all these years. Singer's reputation was savaged by art critics after his death and although the National Gallery did exhibit the portraits together for a short time, they then disappeared for many decades. I find that unfortunate as the Wertheimer portrait and the one of his daughters, Ena and Betty are among my favorites and seem to me to exhibit the "psychological depth" Sargent was criticized as lacking.
(The painting of Wertheimer is from this site.)