Sargent Under Glass (Issue 1083)

In which we are reminded that we need to  understand client preconceptions about us and our services so they’re not disappointed from the get-go.

“Where’s the beef?”

This was the catch phrase in a 1984 TV commercial launched during the McDonalds – Burger King – Wendy’s Hamburger Wars. Wendy’s wanted to distinguish its “Single” burger from the large-bunned Big Mac and WHOPPER. In the commercial, actress Clara Peller receives from a fictional Wendy’s competitor a burger with a massive, puffy bun and a tiny patty. Peller looks at the patty and angrily asks, “Where’s the Beef?”

The punch line and actress Clara Peller’s exasperated delivery instantly became a cultural icon.

Fast forward to 2023.

The maritime museum at the Mystic Seaport in Connecticut produced a show entitled,  “Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass,” which closed in late February, 2023. “Sargent” is American artist John Singer Sargent, the most successful portrait artist of his era. “Whistler” is a Sargent contemporary, James McNeil Whistler, noted for his portraits, etchings, and lithograhs.   Venetian Glass is… well… it’s Venetian glass objects created in the late 19th Century in Venice, Italy.

Sargent is one of my favorite artists. Eager to see Sargent paintings I’d not previously seen, I drove down to see the show.

The room was quiet and softly lit. After reading the large-print welcoming panel, I turned to my left to  begin my explorations – there were over 100 pieces in the show.  In addition to works by Sargent and  Whistler, the exhibit included paintings and prints by seven other artists and rare Venetian glass cups, vases, urns, and mosaic portraits.

While there were more than a dozen of Whistler’s works in a separate section of the show in the middle of the exhibit hall, I found five Sargent pieces in the back left corner of the hall.

“Where’s the beef?”, I thought. “I drove all this way, through a snowstorm, for this?????”

Based on numbers of exhibit pieces, I experienced “Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass” as “Venetian Glass, Whistler, and Sargent.”

“I feel misled,” I said aloud.

Ah, yes, patrons’ and client’s preconceptions sometimes cloud their views.  In a perfect world, the museum would have offered a video or a short blog entitled something like, “For Singer Sargent Fans:  An Introduction to The Show So Your Expectations Will Align With the Exhibit.”

Never mind, I got over myself. The show, taken as a whole, was tremendous – beautifully designed, thoughtfully laid out with just enough documentation to lead us through the exhibits and “learn us” about Venice and the artists.

And, on the way home, I stopped for dinner… [You were guessing a Wendy’s burger, right?]

Nick Miller and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at .

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