- Museum number
Torrent in the Val d'Aosta; with water course narrowing at l
Watercolour with traces of graphite
- Production date
- 1907 (circa)
Height: 345 millimetres
Width: 532 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The present work is one of 9 watercolour drawings by John Singer Sargent in the collection of the British Museum. Although best known for his large scale portrait paintings in oil, Sargent was also a prolific watercolourist and painted in that medium throughout his career. Yet it was only later in his life that watercolour moved to the centre of his artistic practice. Sargent first exhibited watercolours in May 1903 at the Carfax Gallery in London when he was already a well-established portraitist. Soon he became an associate (1904) and then full member (1908) of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours, where he frequently exhibited his works. Around 1907, he stopped painting portraits altogether focusing instead on his sketches and studies of landscapes in both watercolour and oil.
As Richard Ormond has pointed out, the development of Sargent’s painterly style and technique in oil painting is paralleled in his use of watercolour, moving from a dark palette of dense pigment to more luminous washes (Ormond 2012, p. 15). The present work depicting a riverbed in the Val d’Aosta in the Western Alps is one such example of Sargent’s later work. Dominated by loose brushstrokes, the vibrant and at times translucent colours effectively capture the play of light in the water of this mountain stream.
During the summer months Sargent took annual sketching tours that often led him through the Swiss, Austrian, and Italian Alps. Between 1904 and 1908, the artist spent this time together with family and friends in the Val d’Aosta. A time of vacation for his companions, for Sargent these months were a highly productive period of work during which he painted a large number alpine landscapes in watercolour and oil. Like the present drawing, examples of this corpus of work in other collections give testimony to Sargent’s interest in the aesthetic and pictorial qualities of the landscapes he encountered, see “Brooks among Rocks”, c. 1906-08, watercolour, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and “Val d’Aosta (A Stream over Rocks; Stream in Val d’Aosta)”, c. 1907-08, oil on canvas, Brooklyn Museum (see Chen 2012).
Richard Ormond, “Sargent and Watercolor,” John Singer Sargent Watercolors, ed. by Erica E. Hirshler and Theresa A. Carbone, exh. cat. Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Brooklyn Museum. Boston 2012, pp. 15-25.
Janet Chen, “Mountain Landscapes,” John Singer Sargent Watercolors, ed. by Erica E. Hirshler and Theresa A. Carbone, exh. cat. Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Brooklyn Museum. Boston 2012, pp.151-153.
J. Feather, 'A new 'golden age'? The 'modern' landscape watercolour', Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850-1950, ed. by Kim Sloan, exh. cat. British Museum, London, 2017, pp. 68-91.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2017 23 Feb-27 Aug, London, BM, G90, Places of the Mind: British Landscape watercolours 1850-1950
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number