En Route pour la pêche (Setting Out to Fish), 1878. Oil on canvas, 78.8 x 122.8 cm. Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

10 July – 26 September 2010 – Royal Academy of Arts
This July the Royal Academy of Arts will present an exhibition of works by John Singer Sargent RA (1856-1925). Sargent is, of course, best known as a portraitist. Less familiar is his passion for the sea and the remarkable range of maritime works that he produced in the early years of his career. Over 80 paintings, drawings and watercolours produced during the young artist’s travels from Paris to the Normandy and Brittany coasts, the Italian island of Capri, Morocco and to various Mediterranean ports will form the subject of this revelatory exhibition.

The exhibition will focus on the formative years of Sargent’s artistic career covering the period of 1874-1880. During these years Sargent travelled extensively and the dramatic close-up views of the Atlantic Ocean painted from the deck during two transatlantic voyages reveal Sargent’s admiration for Turner and Courbet and show flashes of the bravura painting that would
distinguish his mature career. A little-known scrapbook reveals Sargent’s precocious talent as a draughtsman and shows how well he understood the mechanism of boats.

Sargent and the Sea will feature Setting Out to Fish, a major exhibition piece which was displayed at the Paris Salon in 1878. For this imposing painting of fisher folk in the Breton fishing port of Cancale, Sargent made a number of striking plein-air oil studies which will be presented with the painting. The following year Sargent was captivated by the blue sea of Capri where
children playing on the beach inspired some tender and evocative compositions. The busy Mediterranean port scenes add another dimension to Sargent’s maritime oeuvre. To complement the exhibition there will be a selection of the dazzling boating watercolours that Sargent painted in Venice in the early twentieth century.

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