26°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-20-24 PDF
February 20, 2024
2-12-24 PDF
February 12, 2024

MFA showcases unprecedented exhibition: ‘John Singer Sargent Watercolors’

The+collection+currently+on+display+at+the+MFA+reflects+Sargent%26%238217%3Bs+renewed+enthusiasm+and+passion+for+painting.+The+brushstrokes+he+uses+are+free+and+fluid%2C+the+colors+are+vibrant%2C+and+the+subjects+are+unconventional+for+a+traditional+portraitist.

The collection currently on display at the MFA reflects Sargent’s renewed enthusiasm and passion for painting. The brushstrokes he uses are free and fluid, the colors are vibrant, and the subjects are unconventional for a traditional portraitist.

From now until Jan. 20, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) is showcasing a special exhibit featuring John Singer Sargent’s watercolor series. The MFA coins this collection as an “unprecedented exhibition” because for most of his career, Sargent was not a watercolor painter.
Sargent is known for his traditional oil portraits of British aristocrats and wealthy Americans, and his iconic paintings can be found in museums all around the world. However, he tired of the genre and the limitations on his creativity it imposed, so he turned to watercolors to renew his spirit.
The collection currently on display at the MFA reflects Sargent’s renewed enthusiasm and passion for painting. The brushstrokes he uses are free and fluid, the colors are vibrant, and the subjects are unconventional for a traditional portraitist.
The exhibit opens to a wide room featuring a series of landscape paintings he did while in Venice, which differ greatly from the stiff portraits he spent nearly all of his career commissioning. His travels to the Middle East and Spain are showcased in this exhibit as well, allowing visitors to see the world through Sargent’s eyes.  
The exhibit goes on to feature a much more intimate side of Sargent that most museum-goers don’t normally get a chance to see. He was extremely reluctant to sell this collection because, unlike his other works, these paintings were not commissioned for anyone else; they were created solely for his enjoyment.
Because of this, museum-goers really get a much more personal sense of what really mattered to Sargent. We can see his draw to his ancestral land of Italy through his whimsical depictions of Venice and the bright villa gardens of the Tuscan region.
More importantly, we can see the types of people Sargent wanted to paint. Unlike the stiff portraits he was commissioned for, his more informal portraits capture the essence of everyday life, and the essence of the people in everyday life. His subjects are not posed. The beauty of these paintings is their honest simplicity.
Since the exhibit’s opening in early October, there has been a steady flow of visitors. According to museum staff, this has been one of the highest grossing exhibits in terms of the amount of tickets sold, and in terms of the amount of Sargent paraphernalia sold in the gift shops.
Even on a Wednesday night, the exhibit is bustling with people young and old, and the rooms are full of spirited discussions of art and history.
So what’s the draw for college students? Aside from getting a chance to see a more personal side of a well-known artist, this is one of the many things college students can do in Boston for free. Any student with an up-to-date UMass Boston student ID gets in to not only the exhibit for free, but the entire museum as well! For more information, visit www.mfa.org