- Museum number
Graveyard in Tyrol; ornamental grave markers, metal and cross-shaped, one with figure of Christ hanging from it at r. 1914
Watercolour over graphite
- Production date
Height: 345 millimetres
Width: 530 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This is one of 9 watercolours by John Singer Sargent in the collection of the British Museum. The work depicts 11 cast-iron crucifixes, typically used as grave markers in the Tyrolean Alps.
On his annual summer sketching tour in 1914, Sargent travelled with friends, the painters Adrian and Marianne Stokes, to the southern Tyrol, then part of Austria. When Britain entered the war against the Austro-Hungarian and German Empires on 4 August 1914, the group found themselves in foreign territory during time of war. Gradually more affected by the political events unfolding around them, the group stayed in the village of Kolfuschg (modern day Calfosco) until the end of September when they moved to Sankt Lorenzen (see Corsano, Williman 2014, chapter 8). From this period a number of drawings of Tyrolean landscapes, graveyards, and crucifixes survive and also the present work most likely resulted from Sargent’s stay at Kolfuschg. While the type of grave marker depicted in the BM’s drawing is common throughout the region, an oil painting in a private collection helps to identify the graveyard as the one in Calfosco. In the oil painting, the grave markers are presented against the backdrop of the imposing Sella massif and bear a striking resemblance to the present work.
This watercolour was exhibited alongside four other works of similar subjects shortly after Sargent’s death in his memorial exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1926 as no. 158 ‘A Graveyard: Tyrol’ (see nos. 11 ‘In the Austrian Tyrol’, 75 ‘In the Tyrol’, 290 ‘A Crucifix in the Tyrol’, and 582 ‘A Mountain Stream, Tyrol’ in the exhibition catalogue).
The following label was written by Kim Sloan for Places of the Mind, 2017:
This atmospheric view of falling crosses is uncannily prescient of the death toll about to engulf Europe. Sargent had enjoyed several summers of sketching in the Alps when he was caught by the outbreak of war in the Austrian Tyrol and was forced to remain until November while waiting for the right papers to return to London. In this misty scene the bright splashes of colour of his earlier holiday watercolours (in the first half of this gallery) are replaced with grey and beige, wet-on-wet washes that run into each other, capturing the mood of the autumn and the uncertainty ahead.
For more information about John Singer Sargent’s work as a watercolourist, see the curatorial comment for 1925,0811.1.
Elaine Kilmurray, Richard Ormond (eds.), John Singer Sargent, exh. cat. Tate Gallery. London 1998, p. 238, cat. no. 131.
Karen Corsano, Daniel Williman, John Singer Sargent and His Muse: Painting Love and Loss, New York/London 2014.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1926, London, Royal Academy, 'Exhibition of Works by the late John S. Sargent, R.A. (Winter exhibition)', no. 158
1998/9 Oct-Jan, London, Tate Gallery, John Singer Sargent, no. 131
1999 Feb-May, Washington, NG Art, John Singer Sargent
1999 June-Sep, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, John Singer Sargent
2017 23 Feb-27 Aug, London, BM, G90, Places of the Mind: British Landscape watercolours 1850-1950
- Associated events
- Associated Event: First Wold War 1914-1918
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The nine drawings by Sargent 1959,0102.1 to 9, came directly from Mrs Violet Ormond, Sargent's sister, and were presented to the BM anonymously by Sir Alec Martin of Christie's.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number