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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

SARGENT AND THE SEA at The Royal Academy of Arts

John Singer Sargent
(1856-1925) was born in Florence and is best known as a portrait painter; sculptor Auguste Rodin called him ‘the Van Dyck of our times’. The current exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts focuses on Sargent’s marine paintings that are less often displayed.

The show was crowded, and I felt slightly out of place as stuffy women walked past obviously judging my presence. I didn’t take long to look round because it was difficult to get to properly see a lot of the work without getting tutted out of the way. Why do galleries display art in near-darkness? I find it so irritating when I have to squint through dim light to properly see a piece of work.

On a more positive note: some of the seascapes are beautiful. A sense of immediacy is captured within Sargent’s tumultuous waves, sometimes just through a few clever brushstrokes. And despite only being in his twenties when he painted most of the paintings, his visual description of water is skilful and enchanting. I especially noticed the delicate reflections in the puddles on the beaches that make the pictures so romantic. I also enjoyed getting a glimpse of some of Sargent’s sketchbooks- a real insight into how this artist thought through and executed his ideas. Towards the end of the show there are a few watercolour paintings on show. These present a different facet of the artist’s output and show his intimate relationship with the sea.

Overall I was disappointed, the show as a whole is bland, and I left struggling to remember any one picture that particularly impressed me. The exhibition only consists of about six rooms – I personally feel the £8 ticket is too much.

Exhibition continues until 26 September 2010.

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