John Singer Sargent: Watercolors

Apr 2, 2013 4:43PM

 The international art star of the Gilded Age, John Singer Sargent's approach to watercolor  was surprisingly unconventional. Reaching beyond turn-of-the-century standards for carefully delineated and composed landscapes filled with delicate transparent washes, his dynamic, dense strokes and loosely defined forms shocked critics and fellow practitioners alike. This is evidenced in reviews from his London exhibition, with one critic declaring him “an eagle in a dove-cote”; another called his work “swagger” watercolors. This, however, was a misinterpretation, for Sargent the watercolors were not about swagger but a renewed and liberated approach to painting. In watercolor his vision became more personal, while the works had greater interplay, as he considered the way one image--often of a friend or favorite place--enhanced another. Sargent held just two major watercolor exhibitions in the United States during his lifetime. The contents of the first, in 1909, were purchased in their entirety by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The paintings exhibited in the other, in 1912, were scooped up by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. John Singer Sargent: Watercolors reunites nearly 100 works from these collections for the first time, arranging them by themes and subjects: sunlight on stone, figures reclining on grass, patterns of light and shadow. Enhanced by biographical and technical essays, and lavishly illustrated with 175 color reproductions, this publication introduces readers to the full sweep of Sargent’s accomplishments in this medium, in works that delight the eye as well as challenge our understanding of this prodigiously gifted artist.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019