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A fascinating book examining the career of John Singer Sargent, not only focusing upon his achievements as a master portraitist, but also as a painter of landscapes, figures, watercolours and murals

This second hand catalogue accompanied a major exhibition of the artist’s work, including his mural painting, at the Tate Gallery, National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1998-1999. This was the first large-scale retrospective exhibition for the artist since his memorial exhibitions in 1925 and 1926.

Sargent was a genuinely international figure, forging an early reputation in Paris, and later establishing himself as a portraitist in England and America. He travelled extensively in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, doing research for his Boston mural projects and painting a dazzling range of landscapes and figure studies in oil and watercolour. His huge diversity of output is surveyed and evaluated in this exhibition catalogue.

The three essays, illustrated by a total of 56 b/w figures that include contemporary photographs, are ‘John Singer Sargent: A Biographical Sketch’ and ‘Sargent’s Art’ both by Richard Osmond and ‘Sargent in Public: On the Boston Murals’ by Mary Crawford Volk. 

The Catalogue is divided into ‘Early Landscape and Subject Pictures’, ‘Paris and the Salon’, ‘Impressionism’, ‘Portraiture in England and America’, ‘The Murals’, ‘Sargent the Watercolourist’ and ‘Late Landscapes, Figure Studies and the War’. This book also includes an illustrated Chronology, a Select Bibliography and an Index. 

The earliest work shown is “Wineglasses”, c. 1875, showing the influence of Manet but also the artist’s familiarity with the Impressionists. Also included is “Fishing for Oysters at Cancale”, 1878, the artist’s first submission to the Salon. Sargent’s Impressionist style is shown in, amongst others, “A Gust of Wind”, c. 1883-85, “Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood”, 1885?, “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose”, 1885-86, “Poppies”, 1886, “Robert Louis Stevenson”, 1887, “A Morning Walk”, 1888, “A Boating Party”, c. 1889, and “Paul Helleu Sketching with his Wife”, 1889.

The artist’s English and American portraits include “Mrs Wilton Phipps”, c. 1884, “Violet”, 1886, the collector “Isabella Stewart Gardner”, 1888, “Miss Elsie Palmer”, 1889-90, “Lady Agnew of Lochnaw”, 1892, my own favourite, the landscape architect and planner “Frederick Law Olmsted”, 1895, “Winifred, Duchess of Portland”, 1902, “Lord Ribblesdale”, 1892, “Sir Frank Swettenham”, 1904, the epitome of the British Empire, “Self-Portrait”, 1906, “Henry James”, 1913, and “John D. Rockefeller”, 1917.

Amongst the watercolours on show are landscapes of Venice, the powerful portrait of “The Tramp”, c. 1904, “Bedouins”, c. 1905-06, “Gourds”, c. 1908, “The Cashmere Shawl” and “The Garden Wall”, both 1910, “Simplon Pass: The Lesson”, 1911, “Carrara: Workmen, 1911, “Graveyard in the Tyrol”, 1914, and “Palmettos”, 1917.

Works from the artist’s final period include “On his Holidays”, 1901, “The Chess Game”, c. 1907, “The Hermit” and “Mosquito Nets”, both 1908, Street in Arras, A Wrecked Sugar Refinery and ‘’’Thou Shalt Not Steal’’’, all 1918, and the magnificent “Gassed”, 1919, a commission by the British War Memorials Committee.

An informative catalogue with impressive breadth and depth.

  • Authors: Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray
  • Paperback: 288 pages | 171 colour and 85 black and white illustrations
  • Date published: 1992
  • Language: English
  • ISBN:  978-1854372468
  • Condition: Used - very good. Some minor signs of shelf wear.

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