Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sargent Watercolor Show Coming

The Boston MFA and Brooklyn Museum are mounting a major exhibition of John Singer Sargent's exquisite watercolors this year.

Santa Maria della Salute, by John Singer Sargent, 1904, translucent and opaque watercolor with graphite underdrawing

The opportunity to see in person nearly 100 of Sargent's watercolors is fantastic news for east-coast painters and art lovers.  In these plein-air paintings, Sargent seems to have emerged from the shadowy pressure cooker of the portrait studio to respond freshly and spontaneously to the glorious play of light, form, color, and atmosphere that he saw and felt in the visible world.

Together, the 93 watercolors in the exhibition, most of which have not been on view for decades, provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to view a broad range of Sargent’s finest production, which must be among the finest of any artist's in the medium.

The landmark exhibition John Singer Sargent Watercolors unites for the first time the holdings of Sargent's watercolors acquired by the two institutions in the early 20th century. 

The exhibition will also present nine oil paintings, including Brooklyn’s “An Out-of-Doors Study, Paul Helleu and His Wife” (1889), and Boston’s “The Master and His Pupils” (1914). The exhibition will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from April 5 to July 28, 2013, and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, October 13, 2013- January 20, 2014. It will then travel to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

I have raved about Sargent's watercolors in this space already, and I've discussed his marvelous sense of abstract design and his lovely and immortal oil, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose here as well. Some would class certain of Sargent's watercolors among the finest small paintings ever made. This show promises to bring the proper attention to what art historians have for too long considered a tangential aspect of Sargent's work.

Sargent's oil, The Master and His Pupils (1904) at the MFA

The Brooklyn Museum and MFA Publications are co-publishing a fully illustrated book to accompany the exhibition. Co-authored by the collaborative exhibition team, the volume includes a lead essay by the MFA's Erica E. Hirshler; a collaborative essay by the lead project conservators, Antoinette Owen and Annette Manick; and chapters that expand upon the exhibition’s thematic framework.