The expansive exhibition John Singer Sargent: The Watercolors offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to see early 20th-century watercolors by Gilded Age American master John Singer Sargent (1856–1925). The more than 90 watercolors on view—depicting dazzling scenes of landscape, labor, and leisure—are punctuated by selected works in oil to highlight the artist’s experimentation with a variety of techniques and effects.
Sargent’s watercolor technique has been a source of wonderment for the past century. This exhibition unites, for the first time, the two most significant collections of his watercolor paintings: holdings from the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Brooklyn and Boston collections were purchased by the two museums (in 1909 and 1912, respectively) directly from Sargent’s only two American watercolor exhibitions, at the Knoedler Gallery in New York.
Representing Sargent’s departure from the commissioned portraits that made him famous, the compositions in this exhibition were painted in Greece, Italy, Palestine, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and Syria. The subjects include scenes of Mediterranean sailing vessels, villa gardens, marble quarries, fountains, gondoliers at work, and one of Venice’s greatest churches, as well as explorations of sunlight and shadow.