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John Singer Sargent comes to life through letters and lore

Behind the renowned paintings of John Singer Sargent lies another legacy—a treasure trove of letters, photographs, and sketches that document the artist’s world. Among the correspondence, more than a dozen letters from Sargent to Claude Monet illuminate his lifelong friendship and admiration for the French Impressionist master. Another note, carefully written in a neat round hand, describes a certain portrait as a “masterpiece”; it is signed Amélie Gautreau, an appreciative sitter best known today as Madame X. 

In celebration of the recent gift to the MFA of The John Singer Sargent Archive, which establishes the Museum as the center for Sargent scholarship, this exhibition selected from the archive and the MFA’s collection, brings Sargent’s era to life, enhancing our understanding of the man and his work. The show features  watercolors, prints, drawings, correspondence, and photographs arranged around several themes. Caricatures of Sargent by his friends and fellow artists Henry Tonks and Max Beerbohm add a dose of humor to our view of this hard-working artist, while sketches, props, and photographs of his studios illuminate his artistry and reveal the spaces of his labor. 

Above: Henry Tonks, John Singer Sargent Painting, 1918. Watercolor and pencil on paper. The John Singer Sargent Archive—Gift of Jan and Warren Adelson.


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