atomictv David Bickerstaff
Artist, filmmaker and creative director of digital media for narrative environments

Artist works

Other projects

Fashion & Swagger

Museum of Fine Art, Boston
Tate Britain

Cinema release from
16th April 2024


>> Play the TRAILER

Filmed and directed by David Bickerstaff
Produced by Phil Grabsky

HD video | 16:9 | 93 min

John Singer Sargent: Fashion & Swagger, is based on major exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston and Tate Britain. John Singer Sargent is an Anglo-American artist whose 'swagger' portraits have been compared with the work of Velázquez, Frans Hals and Joshua Reynolds. Sargent's powerful vision, virtuoso mark-making and the liberties he took with his sitters' image to express their distinctive personality, social position, profession, gender, identity and nationality will be on display for all to see In these two major exhibitions. This feature documentary will examine Sargent's vast body of work and the role he played in composing and fashioning the subjects he painted, an aspect of Sargent's unique practice that has been mirrored by more recent creative developments in photography, moving image, and performance.

The portrait is a single moment in time and public identity is as personal, controversial and contested today, as it was at the turn of the 20th century but somehow Sargent's work transcends the social noise surrounding a lot of his sitters and reveals an alluring truth with each stroke of paint. Our film asks what happens when you allow your image to be captured by a great artist or creative visionary? Why do we seek out and want to look at portraiture? What is it's power? What role can clothing, objects or the constructed space have in how personal stories are told? What happens when a private life is defined by their public persona? What is the secret behind a great portrait and how much of that is down to the fascinating dance between an artist, their sitter and the process of making?

Music by Asa Bennett
Written by David Bickerstaff and Phil Grabsky
Associate Producer - Rebecca Dale-Everett
Post-production - Storm Postproduction

Featuring contributions by

Lucy Clayton - Writer & Fashion Podcaster
Louise Cooling - Curator of Collections and Interiors, Kenwood, English Heritage, London
Stephen Farthing - Artist
James Finch - Assistant Curator, 19th Century British Art, Tate Britain
Dr. Rosie Findlay - Lecturer in Fashion Media
Paul Fisher - Professor of American Studies, Wellesley College, Massachusetts
Prof. Frances Fowle - Personal Chair of 19th Century Art, University of Edinburgh
James Hayes - Artist
Stephanie L. Herdrich - Alice Pratt Brown Associate Curator of American Paintings and Drawings, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Erica E. Hirshler - Croll Senior Curator of American Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Mark C. O'Flaherty - Writer and Photographer
Richard Ormond - Director of the John Singer Sargent Catalogue Raisonné Project
Matthew Teitelbaum - Ann and Graham Gund Director, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Tim Walker - Photographer

  Atomictv © David Bickerstaff