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Curator's Choice: American Watercolor Masters: Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent

DATES July 07, 1990 through September 02, 1990
  • May 1, 1990 A selection of watercolors by Winslow Homer (1836-1910) and John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) from the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Museum will be featured in a special exhibition scheduled to open on July 7 and to remain on view through September 3, 1990. Entitled American Watercolor Masters: Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, it is the latest in the continuing series of Curator’s Choice exhibitions. This exhibition, which will comprise thirty-three works, offers a rare opportunity to compare the very different techniques of two of America's pre-eminent practitioners of the watercolor medium.

    Included will be Homer’s Under the Falls, The Grand Discharge, Fresh Air, and a work featuring Florida's Homosassa River. Among the Sargent works on view will be La Riva, Venetian Boats, and Santa Maria della Salute. There will be several watercolors by both artists which have not been on public view for many years.

    Winslow Homer first began his sustained efforts using watercolor in 1873. Over the next three decades he developed a distinctive and powerful style that was to become an important influence on the watercolor tradition in this country. Compared to many other artists of his day, his approach was unsentimental and was distinguished by spontaneous brushwork and his use of clean washes.

    By the 1880s John Singer Sargent had established himself as a portrait painter of international stature. Shortly after the turn of the century he began working in the watercolor medium, which offered an escape of sorts from the often restrictive nature of painting on commission. Like his oils, his work in watercolor reveals an energetic expansiveness that is accentuated with with slashing brushstrokes of brilliant color.

    Homer and Sargent traveled frequently, and both found watercolor a convenient and portable medium with which to record their journeys. Each had a taste for the exotic, as revealed in such diverse subjects as Homer’s Bermuda paintings and Sargent’s Bedouin series. Their aesthetics, however, differed radically. A comparison of the loose, fluid washes that typify Homer’s signature style with Sargent’s occasional reliance on opaque gouaches which frequently produced a thick, impasto surface illustrates this difference at its most extreme.

    The exhibition has been organized by Barbara Dayer Gallati, Associate Curator of American Painting and Sculpture.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1989 - 1994. 04-06/1990, 085-86.
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