Thursday, April 10, 2014

In the awesome presence of John Singer Sargent

Ever since January 15 (see my post HERE), I've been ready for this week to arrive. On Monday, I finally flew to Houston to see the John Singer Sargent show.  In addition to admiring his watercolor technique (he uses at least some opaque paint and wax as a resist in most of his watercolor paintings), he lived and worked in Venice, Italy which is one of my favorite places to paint.  

Here I am with my friend, Carol, and her 2 sisters-in-law who live close by.  We're all artists, so it was especially exciting to share the show with them!  The museum sits behind us.
As soon as you enter the Museum of Fine Art Houston, you know you're in for a treat.  The building is beautifully laid out, and you end up walking through this long tunnel-like thing that's dark except for being edged in this blue, almost eerie light.  When you come out on the other end, you face the huge wall that sets your heart to pounding!  

Photos inside the gallery are obviously not allowed.  I took some "notes" as I walked from room to room, and I had more than one docent walk up close to me, thinking I was maybe sneaking pics.  I think I made them nervous!  

Some of my favorites (pics taken off the internet where possible):

"In a Leventine Port" by John Singer Sargent (c. 1905-06)
Photos never do justice to the real painting.  Do you see the lighter hashmarks near the bottom of the boat's hull?  These jumped off the painting as if real sunlight was being reflected off the water!  Splendid!
"In Switzerland" c. 1905 by John Singer Sargent
Casual capture of one of his friends.

"The Garden Wall" by John Singer Sargent (c. 1910)
It was gratifying to hear my friend come up to me at some point and say "did you SEE that face on the left!?"  Gratifying, because I had thought (and felt) the same thing when I saw it 15 minutes earlier.  You've got to see this one in person to believe how beautifully it was painted.  It was like looking through the veils of the years into the soul of the sitter.
"The Tramp" by John Singer Sargent (c. 1904)
The face glowed, and I particularly enjoyed the unfinished section at bottom right, a recurring (and surprisingly successful) technique of his.
"Gondoliers - Siesta" by John Singer Sargent (c. 1905)
Something I share in common with Sargent (ha!) is that he avoided the conventionally picturesque subjects.  He chose everyday goings-on and explored the more intimate, quiet spaces that people might not normally give a second thought to.
Sargent was born in Florence, Italy in 1856 to American expatriates.  His contemporaries (and friends) included Monet, Degas, Rodin and Whistler.  He is probably most known for his 900 oil paintings (think Madame X), but he painted 2000 watercolors in his later years, which he far preferred creating over his oil portraits (his bread and butter for all those years).   My humble thanks to the organizers of this awesome show (his watercolors filled at least 4 HUGE rooms --I lost track of how many--and you can also visit the Impressionism show while you're there). The Sargent show is up through May 26...go see it.  You'll be glad you did. (The Impressionism show hangs through May 4).

Come paint Montreal, Maine, Charleston, and Magnolia Plantation with me in 2014!  In May 2015, we go back to Venice!!!  Find details HERE.