Leslie B. Jones
Cheekwood | Vice President of Museum Affairs & Curator of Decorative Arts
Artist Bio: John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) is considered one of America’s greatest painters; however, Sargent was not born in the United States. His parents, Mary and Fitzwilliam Sargent, set off on an extended European vacation in 1854, but along the way they decided to stay indefinitely. Their son, John Singer, was born in Florence in 1856. Surrounded by a culture saturated in art and by artists, Sargent took to painting at an early age. He studied in Florence and later Paris, where he was under the instruction of Carolus-Duran—a revered French painter. With Duran’s instruction, Sargent honed his skills and garnered great attention. Sargent’s career blossomed as a highly sought-after portrait artist beginning in the1880s, and he went on to receive major commissions, including the official portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. On a personal level, Sargent found great joy in painting places and spent a considerable amount of time traveling around the world todo so. John Singer Sargent spent the majority of his adult life in London, where he passed away in 1925.
Since my very first encounter with the work of John Singer Sargent, he has remained, to my mind, the unquestionable champion of the canvas. I have been favorably overexposed to his work as a portrait artist and his landscape studies, but I was unfamiliar with Falconieri Gardens, Frascati until 2015 when I arrived at Cheekwood. In acquainting myself with the institution, I surveyed the permanent collection and came across this work by Sargent in our paintings division: a trisect composition of a garden located outside of Rome.
The coordination of colors creates a palpable evening atmosphere in Falconieri Gardens, Frascati. Sargent draws the viewer down the right side of the composition with a Cypress-lined, lush green pathway while also luring one’s attention to a discrete spouting fountain located in the left middle ground. Before long, one can feel the warmth of the descending sun dissipate and the soft repetitive sound of falling water harmonizing with the rustle of trees as night falls.
As a master of the impressionistic style, Sargent transcends in this painting the action of simply mimicking a view; he evokes an environmental experience. The capturing of hues and tones by paint is complemented and enhanced by the atmospheric sensations Sargent employs in every brush stroke. What more could one ask for from a painting? I am very pleased that this work is in the Cheekwood Permanent Collection, and I look forward to sharing it with visitors as part of the American Artists at Home and Abroad exhibit, opening summer of 2016.