Sargent: The Watercolours, Gallery Road, London SE21, until 8th October 2017
John Singer Sargent, The Church of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, c. 1904-9,
watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 36.7 x 53.8 cm,
© Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon. Photo: Catarina Gomes Ferreira
It is almost a hundred years since there was an exhibition devoted to the watercolours of John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) so there is much to celebrate in this show. The eighty works by this Anglo American artist are an absolute delight with most dating from between 1900 – 1918.
Unknown photographer, Sargent painting a watercolour in the Simplon Pass, c. 1910-11,
Sargent Archive, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Sargent by 1910 had basically given up the portrait painting for which he was renowned to concentrate on watercolour painting. He travelled in Southern Europe and the Middle East and brought his own idiosyncratic style to these wonderful works whether fragmented glimpses, cities, people or landscapes. As the photograph shows he painted ‘en plein air’ and in some of the Venice watercolours you feel you are actually there with him in the gondola from which he depicts the view before him.
John Singer Sargent, A Turkish Woman by a Stream, c. 1907,
watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, with touches of body colour, 35.9 x 50.8 cm,
Victoria and Albert Museum. Bequeathed by Miss Dorothy Barnard. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Richard Ormond, co-curator and grand-nephew of Sargent, says: “In Sargent’s watercolours we see his zest for life and his pleasure in the act of painting. The fluency and sensuality of his paint surfaces, and his wonderful command of light, never cease to astonish us. With this exhibition we hope to demonstrate Sargent’s mastery of the medium and the scale of his achievement”.
I rather think you will agree with him.
John Singer Sargent, Rome: An Architectural Study, c. 1906-7,
watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 34.9 x 50.2 cm,
Museums & Galleries, City of Bradford MDC
John Singer Sargent, Highlanders Resting at the Front, 1918,
watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 34.3 cm x 53.5 cm,
© Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge