MALCOLM ROGERS: Now if you look at the hands in A Tramp, a quite different approach. Here the hands almost become a kind of gateway to the psychological understanding of the sitter. They're painted very freely, freshly, in almost an expressionist way, and they really are a part—a key part—of our understanding of the whole subject.

Part of the effect of a watercolor like the tramp is that you have the feeling of a moment seized. When you're painting in watercolor, you have to do it quickly before you're paint's dry. But what I find particularly moving is this notion of a moment's seized. That somehow Sargent is capturing a moment of insight, a moment of beauty, which seconds later could be gone.

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Planning a visit? Don’t forget an MFA Guide

MFA Guide

Members$5
Nonmembers$6
Kids 17/under$4

Rent at any ticket desk, Sharf Visitor Center, and Gund Gallery (LG31). Or add to your online ticket purchase.

Assistive Listening System Audio Description Sign Language Interpretation

The mobile MFA Guide is free to visitors who are blind, low vision, Deaf, or hard of hearing. MFA Guides are touch screen players with a screen reading option and text transcripts, and includes hearing aid neckloops with t-switches as well as headsets. An American Sign Language tour offers a selection of MFA collection highlights, and audio description is available through much of the Museum.

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