American Drawings and Watercolors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: John Singer Sargent

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9780300085198: American Drawings and Watercolors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: John Singer Sargent
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The Museum's collection illuminates all aspects of Sargent's career. The drawings and watercolors in particular reflect his activity outside the portrait studio: his sojourns in Spain, Morocco and elsewhere in North Africa, and in the Middle East; his enduring fascination with Venice; his holidays in the Italian lake district and the Alps; his tours of North America, including Florida and the Rocky Mountains; his visit as an official war artist to the western front in 1918; and his work as a muralist at the Boston Public Library, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Harvard University's Widener Library.

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Review:

An expatriate American living in England, John Singer Sargent was an immensely gifted artist and the leading international portraitist of his day. He produced his magnificent oil paintings of the social elite after lengthy preparations that included numerous studies and sketches. American Drawings and Watercolors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: John Singer Sargent presents the Met's collection of four sketchbooks and 337 single sheets by Sargent, from rough to highly finished designs. Many of the watercolors and a handful of the drawings are brilliant, but they are lesser works than the great paintings; this book is an important art-historical study rather than an art book.

Two introductory essays describe the formation of the collection and the artist's techniques. The material is divided into four sections covering Sargent's childhood, early career, professional activity, and travel, each introduced by details of the artist's life. The drawings provide useful contexts for his major paintings. For example, intimate sketches of Madame Gautreau, the sitter for his portrait Madame X, whose scandalously low shoulder strap led to the closing of Sargent's Paris studio, clarify the narrative that precedes the section "Student Years and Early Career, 1874-89." Watercolors from his visit to the frontlines during World War I include naked soldiers bathing; these and other material have led to speculation about Sargent's sexual orientation, which is beginning to attract critical analysis. The complex material is extensively and intelligently footnoted, and a chronology of Sargent's life, exhibitions, and a bibliography round out the book's encyclopedic scholarship. The first of a series documenting the Met's collections of master-drawings, this book is a treasure-trove and an art historian's delight. --John Stevenson

From the Inside Flap:

The celebrated expatriate painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) and his heirs enjoyed a cordial relationship with The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In consequence, the museum has an unparalleled collection of Sargent's works, in particular his drawings and watercolors, which are all presented in this comprehensive volume.The book contains an introduction that describes the Metropolitan's acquisition of Sargent's works, an essay on his watercolor technique, and illustrations of the 337 individual sheets and every page from four sketchbooks. Entries are organized chronologically and thematically into four sections: Sargent's childhood and adolescence; student years in Paris and early career; professional accomplishments from 1890 to 1925; and studies made during his extensive travels from 1890 to 1925.

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