This landmark exhibition unites for the first time the John Singer Sargent watercolors acquired by the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in the early twentieth century. The culmination of a yearlong collaborative study by both museums, John Singer Sargent Watercolors explores the watercolor practice that has traditionally been viewed as a tangential facet of Sargent’s art making. The ninety-three pieces on display provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to view a broad range of the artist’s finest production in the medium.
Brooklyn’s thirty-eight watercolors, most of which have not been on view for decades, were largely purchased from Sargent’s 1909 debut exhibition in New York. Their subjects include Venetian scenes (The Bridge of Sighs), Mediterranean sailing vessels, intimate portraits (A Tramp), and Bedouin subjects (Bedouins). Boston’s watercolors, purchased in 1912, are more highly finished than the Brooklyn works. They feature subjects from his travels to the Italian Alps, the villa gardens near Lucca, and the marble quarries of Carrara, as well as portraits. The exhibition also presents 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).
New discoveries based on scientific study of Sargent’s pigments, drawing techniques, and paper preparation are featured in a special section deconstructing his techniques. Select works throughout the exhibition are paired with videos that show a contemporary watercolor artist demonstrating some of Sargent’s methods.