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Fishing for Oysters at Cancale

1878

John Singer Sargent, American, 1856–1925 American


Dimensions

40.96 x 60.96 cm (16 1/8 x 24 in.)

Accession Number

35.708

Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Gallery (Gallery 232)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Paintings

In 1877 the twenty-one year old Sargent spent the summer in Cancale on the coast of Brittany sketching fisherfolk. He sent his first completed painting, "Fishing for Oysters at Cancale," a finished sketch, to New York for display at the newly-formed, avant garde Society of American Artists from March 6 to April 5, 1878. Sargent submitted the second painting, "Oyster Gatherers of Cancale" (Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), a larger, more finished version of the same subject, to the 1878 Paris Salon, where it was awarded an Honorable Mention. Critics praised "Fishing for Oysters at Cancale," the first Sargent painting to be exhibited in America, for its silvery hue and almost palpable marine atmosphere. Samuel Colman, a landscape painter twenty-fours years Sargent's senior, bought it for $200 as a standard to emulate. Sargent's choice of subject was not revolutionary - a similar scene of oyster harvesters had previously won a medal at the Salon. However, his ability to paint the reflections in the tidal pools and the light sparkling on the figures and clouds dazzled viewers, clearly demonstrating that his talents extended beyond portraiture.

This text was adapted from an entry by Janet Comey in Erica Hirshler, "Impressionism Abroad: Boston and French Painting," exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, 2005.

Inscription

Lower right: J.S. SARGENT/PARIS

Provenance

The artist; to Samuel Colman, Newport, R.I., and New York, by 1880; to Susan Travers, Newport, R.I., by January 1903; to Mary Appleton, Newport, R.I., New York, and Boston, December 1904 (bequest of Susan Travers); to MFA, 1935, gift of Mary Appleton.

Credit Line

Gift of Miss Mary Appleton