John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)) unquestionably ranks among art history’s greatest portraitists. His full length Madame X (1883/84) (Metropolitan Museum of Art) painting set the world on its ear when it was unveiled and remains one of my favorite works of art. I’ve often described his El Jaleo (1882) at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston as having the most stunning installation of any painting in any art museum I’ve visited. John Singer Sargent landscape painting is much less ballyhooed.
The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens has a wonderful little John Singer Sargent landscape painting, one of my favorites in the collection. In the Alps (1911) whisks onlookers to a fresh, breezy, high alpine prominence populated by a pair of goats conjured from the wispiest of brushstrokes.
The punchy, colorful landscape starkly contrasts the monumental society portraits composed of muted tones Sargent made his reputation on demonstrating his artistic breadth.
The Cummer Museum in Jacksonville, Florida and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. unknowingly engaged in a conversation about John Singer Sargent landscape paintings on Twitter recently, each highlighting one from their collection. I prefer the Cummer’s example.
Both paintings depict Simplon Pass in Switzerland. The National Gallery John Singer Sargent landscape painting is titled Simplon Pass. As the Cummer Museum tweet references, Sargent was born in France of American parents and spent the majority of his life in Europe. Both paintings were completed in 1911. Both are roughly the same size, about 20×36 inches.
The Cummer picture has more pops of color, more detail. The goats. The National Gallery example brushier, looser. The waterfall.
I adore both paintings. They take me back to what sparked my initial interest in art: Western landscape painting. Born in Wisconsin and living much of my life in the South, I’ve always been captivated by “the West.” When I began travelling to Colorado regularly and visiting galleries, it was the landscape and wildlife paintings which first attracted me and launched my ongoing passion for art.
While Sargent was painting Switzerland, this could just have easily been Colorado or Wyoming.
The portraits you know, on your next museum visit, keep an eye out for a John Singer Sargant landscape painting.Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens