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Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood (1885) by John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent was the premiere portraitist of his generation, well-known for his depictions of high society figures in Paris, London, and New York. He updated a centuries-old tradition by using vibrant Impressionistic brushstrokes and untraditional compositional solutions in order to capture his sitters’ character and even reputation. Sargent’s pursuits were not limited to portraiture and also included impressionistic landscapes, executed en plein air alongside his friend Claude Monet. He also painted official murals commissioned by governmental officials both in the United States and the United Kingdom as well as a good number of nude sketches probably meant as personal works.

Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood (1885)

Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood

Though Sargent’s work in watercolor is typically associated with the later phase of his career, this painting demonstrates how he experimented with different media and styles early on, when establishing himself as the premier portrait painter of the social elite.

Sargent met Monet during his student days at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and their friendship developed over the ensuing years. During the 1880s Sargent visited Monet’s home at Giverny, outside Paris, numerous times. In this image of his friend painting nature directly outdoors, Sargent draws on Monet’s en plein air technique. Monet’s second wife, Alice, is depicted sitting patiently in the background.

Although the image Monet is painting, noted on the easel, depicts a scene with the sky, Sargent’s own image focuses more on the two figures as well as the play of light on the grass and trees. Sargent’s adoption of the impressionist style here is quite different from the more realistic approach noted in his portrait work. That being said, the exploration of the relationship between Monet and Alice is precisely the kind of thing for which Sargent is best known.

Sargent usually presented the sketches he made of friends and fellow artists to them as gifts, as was the tradition in artistic circles. This sketch of Claude Monet is an exception. It remained with Sargent all his life and was in his studio when he died, along with several works by Monet that Sargent collected.

Oil on Canvas – Collection of the Tate, United Kingdom

Source: https://www.theartstory.org