Published by MFA Publications. Text by Carol Troyen, Pamela Hatchfield, Lydia Vagts.
Born in Italy, trained in Paris and a resident of London, John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) became Boston’s favorite painter in the 1880s. His commissions from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to decorate its new building’s grand staircase and rotunda resulted in one of Sargent’s last and most ambitious works. Sargent regarded the entire space as a giant canvas and brought together all the pictorial, decorative and architectural elements with a painter’s skill and vision. This compact volume offers a guide to the murals and their surroundings, elucidating their allegorical subjects drawn from classical mythology to emphasize the museum’s role as the guardian of fine arts.
John Singer Sargent’s approach to watercolor was unconventional. Going beyond turn-of-the-century standards for carefully delineated and composed landscapes filled with transparent washes, his confidently bold, dense strokes and loosely defined forms startled critics and fellow practitioners alike. One reviewer of an exhibition in London proclaimed him “an eagle in a dove-cote”; another called his work “swagger” watercolors. For Sargent, however, the watercolors were not so much about swagger as about a renewed and liberated approach to painting. In watercolor, his vision became more personal and his works more interconnected, as he considered the way one image--often of a friend or favorite place--enhanced another. Sargent held only 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. The international art star of the Gilded Age, John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) was born in Italy to American parents, trained in Paris and worked on both sides of the Atlantic. Sargent is best known for his dramatic and stylish portraits, but he was equally active as a landscapist, muralist, and watercolor painter. His dynamic and boldly conceived watercolors, created during travels to Tuscan gardens, Alpine retreats, Venetian canals and Bedouin encampments, record unusual motifs that caught his incisive eye.