Wednesday, January 03, 2007

John Singer Sargent - the works

An Artist in his studio
John Singer Sargent

This post is basically going to download quite a bit of information about JSS for anybody who wants to know more about Sargent and/or participate in the project. I'll then blog a bit more information in each of the new few days - but after this post I'm going to get going on deciding what to do for my Sargent artwork

It covers:
  • Process: what I'm doing
  • Summary: a summary of what I've found out so far
  • Books: a note of books about JSS
  • John Singer Sargent Links: a list of useful website links for researching JSS (see the end).
I've also included some of the lesser know works by JSS. He liked sketching and painting other artists - which is something I've like doing too.

I want to find out more about why I feel drawn to the works of John Singer Sargent. I know he has a thing or two to teach me - but am not sure what as yet.
This is what I'm doing:
  • study works he produced
  • work out why he is so good / what makes him different
  • work out how he works (process being important to the emulation process)
  • study his compositions
  • study his colours and saturation levels
  • decide how much is media specific and how much is generic to all art
  • try to emulate. I've not yet decided whether this is about trying to reproduce one his works in my media or trying his techniques with a subject of my choice. More discussion on this one in future posts!
I'm going to start with a few brief details about his background - and will annotate with my notes in italics

Home: He was born in Florence, Italy (in 1856) to American parents and did not visit the USA until he was 21. He lived for most of life in Western Europe. In London he had a large house and studio (previously used by Whistler) at 13 Tite Street in Chelsea where he lived until he died in 1925. You can read about the 'artists colony' that developed in Tite Street here. and a second studio at 12-14 Fulham Road (Thanks to Shirley of Paper and Threads for the photographs of his second home in Tite Street - cannibalised me into a merged crop)
: He travelled a lot as a child and led a nomadic existence from being a small child.
Observation: His mother taught him how to see and encouraged constant study of the landscape (good observation is a critical faculty which all artists working from life need to develop)
Education: He had a formal and traditional art schooling. He
  • copied teacher's watercolours (there's a prompt if ever there was one!)
  • drew from plaster casts (I may well have a go at this at the V&A)
  • studied old Masters in situ (I very much endorse this approach where possible. Images in a book on the internet never ever do justice to the real thing - hence why I visit art museums and galleries so much. It's a good habit to get into. I'll probably blog about this aspect - I saw my first Singer Sargents at the Americans in paris exhibition)
  • his tutor, Carolus Duran, his tutor preached to him about the value of studying Diego Velaquez (I've not yet visited the Velaquez exhibition at the National Gallery and will be doing that next week). Other artists favoured by Duran included Hals, El Greco, Goya and Degas
Photos and Chronology: If you go to this link on Natash Wallace's JSS Virtual Gallery site, you can see photographs of JSS at different ages. If you then click on the associated link for that year you can see what sort of art he was producing - for example:


I've not yet done the full search for all likely looking book but have looked at a couple.

Those who enjoy sketching and/or watercolours will find The Watercolors of John Singer Sargent by Carl Little to be a delightful read. The reproductions of the watercolours are well done and a very good size. All in all an excellent book - available as both hardback and paperback.

Anybody interested in portraits and portrait drawing would do well to try and get hold of a copy of Portrait Drawings (Dover Art Library)

A book I don't have is American Drawings and Watercolors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: John Singer Sargent. Very difficult to get hold of - has anybody read it and is it worth getting?

Natasha Wallace of the JSS Gallery provides an overview of various books about Sargent. These are the ones currently available at Amazon.

Books I still don't know I need to read comes later...... ;) Do let us know if you any recommendations for books about Sargent. Please leave a note in the comments or link to your blog post if you'd like to explain your recommendation.

John Singer Sargent Links:
These are split between websites which specialise in providing access to galleries of images and threads from other art forums where people comment on his work and/or try to reproduce it. Those wanting to participate in this project through producing a painting or sketch may find these useful.
Update on other project participants

Nicole Caulfield has posted her first Sargent post. She's focusing on the value design and composition aspects of JSS's work.

JSS Project Links:

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  1. I'll be tuning in with interest Katherine. I've seen some of his paintings in the past, but was never so moved as by the collection at "The American's in Paris" show. In following one of your links I just found out Mr. Sargent and I share (most likely) the same Birthday!
    ...Off to read some more.

  2. Thank you, Katherine for all this info and research. I cannot join in, but as I said before, I will follow along and try to keep up. I haven't had this much homework in years! I'm sure I will learn very much.

  3. Wonderful Katherine. I've recently been trying to study JSS myself to improve my approach to watercolour. I would love to join in. Doubt that I will be able to make much contribution but will do my best and am so excited about all the resources you have already gathered together.


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