“….By the fall of 1881, Sargent was working on one of his largest and most drematic genre scenes, El Jaleo. Ideas for the picture had been percolating in his mind since 1879, when he had visited Spain and sketched the gypsy dancers there. Over the two years, most likely working in his Paris studio, Sargent made numerous studies in oil of musicians and dancers there. Over the next two years, most likely working in his Paris studio, Sargent made numerous studies in oil of musicians and dancers, experimenting with poses for his finished composition, as well as two smaller paintings showing swirling dancers under a night sky. however, when it came time to craft his final version, which he planned to display at the 1882 Salon, Sargent painted with great speed and assurance. He ignored contemporary studio practice, which called for the creation of a finished sketch at a smaller scale that would be transferred to the large canvas by a grid system or through tracings or projections. Instead, Sargent started afresh, moving rapidly across the surface of the enormous canvas and rarely going back to correct his figures or to rework the details. Once his ideas were set in his mind, they flew from his head to his hands. El Jaleo is a tour de force of sheer painterly bravura.
Of course El Jaleo was not a portrait, and thus Sargent was able to work freely, painting for his satisfaction alone without worrying about creating a likeness or pleasing a client. ”
Erica E. Hirshler, Sargent’s Daughters:The Biography of a Painting, 2009
“…in Madrid, where he was in October 1879, ‘S[eño]r D[o]n M[iste]r Sargent’ purchased a travel hat. Later, perhaps on the same day, inspiration struck the artist when he was without a sketchbook, so he used the verso of the folded receipt to sketch dancers in a Madrid café. The printed receipt is now regarded as the verso of the drawings. These spontaneous studies would lead to a celebrated painting, El Jaleo, 1882, now on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston. The …. drawings [stemming from the quick sketch on the back of the store receipt where he purchased the travel hat]… support the theory that Sargent’s design process began with the direct observation of a dance performance in a Madrid café.”