Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Boston, MA



John Singer Sargent

June 27 - September 26, 1999


John Singer Sargent is the first comprehensive retrospective of one of the most admired painters (1856-1925) at the turn of the century since the memorial exhibitions that followed his death. This exhibition includes 160 of his greatest oils, watercolors, and studies for mural paintings--some never exhibited before--and draws equally from his European and American careers. The showing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) pays special attention to Sargent's work in Boston, the city he considered his American home.

A year-long restoration of Sargent's famed murals in the MFA's Upper Rotunda and Stairwell -- the last decorative works the artist completed before his death -- will be finished for the exhibition's opening. While the scenes illustrate no single theme, many glorify the arts and the power of knowledge, and include representations of gods and heroes whose legends complement the mission of the Museum.

Although Sargent had many clients in New York, Newport, Chicago, and elsewhere, he regarded Boston as the American city with which he had the strongest ties. Sargent's first solo exhibition anywhere was held in Boston in 1888; he returned to the city no less than eight times during the course of his career. As a result, many of his greatest works -- portraits, landscapes, figure studies, and watercolors -- are owned by the MFA, Harvard University, and other public and private collections in the area.

In the 1890s, Sargent embarked on a new career as a mural painter. This aspect of his work can only be seen in Boston, where his murals decorate the ceilings of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and a room at the Boston Public Library.

Sargent's clients were the leading members of high society in London, Paris, New York, and Boston, as well as the influential figures of American and European politics, arts, and commerce. These sitters include:

Renowned portraits include:


The following works can only be seen at the Boston venue of John Singer Sargent:

In conjunction with John Singer Sargent, several arts institutions around Boston will be mounting exhibitions designed to complement the MFA's exhibition, focusing on specific aspects of the painter's work, or that of his contemporaries. These include:

This exhibition was organized by the Tate Gallery in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The presentation in Boston is sponsored by BankBoston.

MFA curators are Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., John Moors Cabot Curator of American Paintings, Carol Troyen, Associate Curator of American Paintings, and Erica Hirshler, Associate Curator of American Paintings

The exhibition is accompanied by a 288 page catalogue which surveys and evaluates the extraordinary range of Sargent's work. More than 150 of his paintings are reproduced in color. Contributors, which include the MFA's Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Carol Troyen and Erica E. Hirshler, as well as Richard Ormond, Sargent's great-nephew, Elaine Kilmurray, and Mary Volk, leading Sargent scholars, assess the artist's career in three essays: a biographical sketch, his development as an artist, and his fascination with mural painting. The hardcover catalogue is available in the Museum of Fine Arts Bookstore and Shop.

Images from top to bottom (click on thumbnail images to enlarge them): Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose , 1885-6, oil on canvas, 68 1/2 x 60 1/2 inches, Tate Gallery, London, presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1887, MFA loan; An Artist in His Studio, 1904, oil on canvas, 22 1/8 x 28 3/8 inches, The Hayden Collection, MFA 05.56; Oyster Gatherers of Cancale, 1878, oil on canvas, 38 1/8 x 48 1/2 inches, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Museum Purchase, Gallery Fund, MFA loan; Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, 1892, oil on canvas, 50 x 39 3/4 inches, National Gallery of Scotland, MFA loan; Daughters of Edward Darley Bolt , 1882, oil on canvas, 87 3/8 x 87 5/8 inches, gift of M. L. Bolt, J. O. Bolt, J. H. Bolt and F. D. Bolt in memory of their father, Edward D. Bolt, MFA, 19-124.

See also John Singer Sargent at the National Gallery of Art and A Sargent Celebration at the Huntington.


Read more about the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in Resource Library Magazine.


rev. 10/18/10

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