There is a very nice exhibition of John Singer Sargent currently at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. If you are out here check it out. Their website is: http://www.corcoran.org/index.asp
The exhibition entitled “Sargent and the Sea” brings together a large body of his early paintings, watercolors and sketches depicting images of costal scenes. Here are two insights I learned.
• He drew prolifically and kept a sketch book with him when observing life and landscape wherever he went. He would often use these observations to create his final images. A great quote he said about drawing is: “Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.” So those of you who may have had me as an art professor you better keep drawing out there. I wasn’t lying when I said it is important that you draw, draw, draw.
• Many of his final images, including the painting in this post, were “constructed” from multiple sketches, oil studies, or watercolors he did earlier. So as much as we may look at the painting and think that it is an image of what actually occurred – like many if not all artists – it is entirely a construction of multiple observations. With some of the individuals in the final paintings I noted he would alter their clothes, move arms or legs, or even age them to fit his final purposes (he at least didn’t change their gender like Michelangelo did).
A delightful show if you can get here, and any Sargent painting is always a treat to the eyes. The man knew how to nail the human form down while simultaneously being quite lyrical and free with his brush work. It makes me want to paint something…