Simplon Pass: The Tease, John Singer Sargent
Watercolor over graphite sketch, with gouache and the use of wax resist; roughly 16 x 21 inches (40 x 53 cm).
In addition to his extraordinary formal portrait paintings in oil, John Singer Sargent was one of the great masters of watercolor.
Here is one of Sargent’s seemingly casual but brilliant travel watercolors, painted for his own pleasure while touring Europe. Sargent was in his 40s when he grew weary of painting portraits of the moneyed elite, took up his watercolors and went on extended trips across Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.
This one was painted at the Simplon Pass on the border between Switzerland and Italy, a location he returned to on several occasions. I believe the figures are of his sister and a niece who accompanied him on some of his travels in the Alps.
I was fortunate to see many of Sargent’s watercolors — including this one and others from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston — in a show at the Brooklyn Museum in 2013. Just knocked me out. Wow.