Last week I went to London for the day to see a couple of exhibitions I'd read about.
The first was "Sargent and the Sea" at the Royal Academy of Arts.
Known mainly as a portrait painter the exhibition is a collection of his early work as he travelled around the coastline of France. Only a few images of the sea itself, the majority of the paintings depict life on the coastline, ships in port, fishermen and women.
I declined the £3.50 audio guide, and was glad of my decision, as I entered the gallery space a real life guide was taking a group around the exhibition, and I tagged along. Fascinating stuff, the history of the paintings, background details of Sargent's methods of working. What I enjoyed the most was the repetition in his work. How Sargent would do some sketches of individuals, smaller studies of scenes and then the final large scale paintings, all of which are displayed alongside one another.
I ended up buying the book that accompanies the exhibition, and i've scanned a few of my favorite pieces:
This one was probably my favorite of his sketches:
As a composition it's very simple, yet very effective. The canvas doesn't need to be full, the water doesn't need to be drawn. The composition shows where it is without it needing to be there.
It was also quite warming to see the following 2 images:
Just as I went to the Fiztwilliam the other week and sketched the paintings on display, Sargent used to do this himself as seen here with his sketch of Turners painting which he used to visit at the National Gallery.