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Tuesday 13 December 2016New book on John Singer Sargent’s watercolours reveals his unorthodox approach and modern aesthetic

Sargent Sargent The Watercolours
Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) is most well known as a painter of Gilded Age beauties and famous figures, but recent scholarship has revealed his much broader artistic reach. During his long career he painted more than a thousand watercolours on his travels through Europe, the Middle East, and America.

Early works include exquisite sketches done in the late 1870s and early 1880s. The 1890s were dominated by his lucrative portrait practice so it is unsurprising that few watercolours date from this period, but towards the end of the decade, and until his death, he began to commit himself full-time to the medium and to explore techniques with great variety and sophistication. Overturning traditional compositional standards Sargent developed an audacious and sophisticated technique, working in bold, fluid strokes, creating unconventional and abbreviated forms and eloquent surface textures.

Sargent’s Watercolours: A New Look, which accompanies an exhibition opening in June 2017 at  Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, features 80 works in watercolour from the artist’s entire career, and  from more than 30 European lenders  including the Imperial War Museum; Tate Britain; Victoria and Albert Museum; Museu de Montserrat, Barcelona; National Gallery of Ireland; the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon and many private collections.

The astonishing figure paintings, architectural works and landscapes works in this beguiling volume are contextualised by photographs taken at the time of the artist at work.

The exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery will run from June 21 until October 8, 2017.



Richard Ormond is Sargent’s great-nephew and was formerly Director of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. He and Elaine Kilmurray are co-authors of a 9 volume catalogue raisonné of Sargent’s work (1998-2017). They were joint curators of exhibitions of the artist’s work at Tate, London, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston;  and Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara, Italy, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Denver Museum of Art. Richard Ormond was curator of a recent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London which travelled to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). They have written numerous articles, contributed to exhibition catalogues and lectured widely on the subject of the artist and his work.


Sargent’s Watercolours

A New Look


Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray


Price: $44.95 / £34.95


ISBN: 978-1-911282-07-5

168 Pages

100 colour illustrations

280 x 240 mm (9 ½ x 11 in)

Published by D GILES LTD in association with Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Publication date: June 2017



John Singer Sargent’s watercolours set for rare London exhibition