|John Singer Sargent, Mountain Fire, c. 1905. Watercolor.|
I love paintings that seem to purposely waver between representation and abstraction. It's as if the artist's restraint in letting go of precise, hyper-realistic details helps make the underlying abstract design more visible.
|John Singer Sargent, Gourds, c. 1907. Watercolor.|
In his watercolors, painted largely for their own sake, he seems to respond directly and exuberantly to the qualities of dazzling light, vivacious line, and vibrant warm-cool color combinations. I've written before about the powerful abstract qualities of his work.
|John Singer Sargent, White Ships, 1908. Watercolor|
I'm becoming ever more convinced that, regardless of subject, a painting's success depends upon just two things: abstract design and the color relationships that form a part of it. That goes for Rembrandt's Old Testament narratives, Rothko's color-field paintings, Sargent's portraits, as well as his ecstatic, energy-charged landscapes in watercolor and oil.