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John Singer Sargent

The Met | Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met had a show of drawings and watercolors by John Singer Sargent that deserved a visit, although it wasn’t very good. Those who read my article last month on painting in Boston about the turn of the century will have understood that I have an intense interest in that period and a fondness for Sargent. I think that, in addition to being a good painter, he was an interesting personality and a far more complex one than he is usually thought to have been. But it’s hard to see what he thought he was doing in his watercolors, and to tell the truth I have scarcely ever seen a good one. Part of the problem is that, whatever else an artist does, he must do it in the language of forms and colors, and in this respect Sargent’s watercolors are spectacularly weak. Certainly they show no understanding of volume: if one compares the two versions of Italian Model with the baroque prototypes they

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