The watercolors are as loose and juicy as the portraits are tightly controlled.
Until I attended this exhibit I thought the looseness was the mark of Sargent's mature work.
What I learned in this show is that throughout his entire painting career Sargent who exhibited technical proficiency across a great range of work and he capitalized the properties of whichever media he was working in, be it oil or water color, to maximize the effects he could create.
This show begins with portraits of Sargent's friends.
Sargent had a wide range of friends, notable artists, writers and actors. He painted these friends and exhibited the portraits in order to obtain commissions, leveraging his relationships for self promotion.
A lesson to all of us who think artists never had to self promote in the past.
In these portraits, you feel the personal connection between the subject and the artist, here a sense of intimacy is conveyed and the handling is loose and painterly.
I took many many pictures as I walked through the exhibit, I will share some of these along with my musings...
Here are two loosely painted portraits that situate the friends in the outdoor locale. In both of these, the drenching ocean light is as important to the compositions as the solo figures.
While these paintings lack some of the the theatricality of the later commissioned work, they make up for that with a feeling of spontaneity and intimacy.
The next image was the first painting of Sargent's to be exhibited at the Royal Academy in London is of a friend who was a prominent physician and art collector. The notes at the museum tell us he was an innovative physician. Looking at the painting he seems quite impressive, the treatment is reminiscent of paintings of cardinals, but the hand gestures indicate to me a sensual sensibility. It is a fine example of the many staged portraits Sargent made with dramatic lighting and costume.
In this ode to the theater, he portrays the elaborate costume of the actress Ellen Terry in her role as Lady Macbeth, as she raises the crown on to her head.The handling of paint and color here produce the shimmering effect, I stood back to be better able to appreciate this glamorous painting.
Please let me know your impressions of the exhibit!