Monday, 12 July 2010

Singer Sargent: Where's the place in this painting?

On Tuesday last week, Richard Ormond, great nephew of John Singer Sargent and Editor of Sargent's Catalogue Raisonee, revealed that his great uncle was no great archivist or recorder of where his landscapes were painted.  (see Sargent and the Beach for my review of the Sargent and the Sea  exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts)

However a Catalogue Raisonnee should try and provide this level of detail so the production of every volume of the catalogue of Sargent's work requires trips to locations where the artist worked to try and work out the locations of different paintings.  He gets quite a lot of help from fans of Sargent's work and people living in the locations where Sargent painted.  One of the problems which can occur is that places have changed a lot since the late nineteenth century and it can be very difficult sometimes to identify a specific location.

The painting below had originally been attrubuted to "a trip to Morocco".  He told us that this ended up in him walking up and down a fair few beaches in Morocco trying to find it without any success at all.

Beach scene, Marina Grande, Capri (1880)
John Singer Sargent
Oil on panel, 25.4 x 34.3 cm

Private Collection | Image courtesy Royal Academy of Arts

It then turned out that, while researching the paintings of Capri, an individual identified the painting and said "that's not in Morocco - that's the Marine Grande!"  The instructions were to return to the harbour, go to the extreme left and then look left - and the scene would look like the painting.

If you go to the Marina Grande, Capri on Streetview one can see that is in fact the case!

This now makes the reference to the painting in the catalogue of the exhibition completely wrong - but then catalogues are always being updated as information improves.

Here's the remainder of the description of this painting.
A gaggle of local women are seen laying fishing nets to dry.  the white sand and dense blue sky evoke the brilliance and saturating heat of a sunlit day on the Mediterranean coast."
extract from Sargent and the Sea by: Sarah Cash, Richard Ormond
I wonder if Streetview will be able to provide the answer to the challenges of an editor of a catalogue raisonee?
You can find out more about Singer Sargent and his work from my information website - John Singer Sargent - Resources for Art Lovers

  • a catalogue raisonné is a monograph giving a comprehensive catalogue of artworks by an artist.
  • Richard Ormond was formerly Director of the National Maritime Museum from 1986 until 2000 and formerly Head of the Picture Department from 1983. He was the Nineteenth Century Curator and latterly the Deputy Director of the National Portrait Gallery from 1975 until 1983. He is a Victorian Painting specialist with a particular interest in John Singer Sargent and Lord Leighton. With Elaine Kilmurray, he is producing the Catalogue Raisonee for John Singer Sargent which runs to several volumes.
  • Sargent and the Sea - the exhibition catalogue by Sarah Cash, Richard Ormond (Yale University Press October 27, 2009)


Marie Remond said...

If this is a painting of Capri's Marina Grande, it must have been painted a **long** time ago!! I know Capri as I've been there several times. Marina Grande looks nothing like that anymore. Many constructions, and I'm guessing that this is one of the houses up on the small hill far right from where the boats comes in. Any idea as to when this was painted? I like your website. I now have a painting holidays company and we have groups going to Capri. It's called

Katherine Tyrrell said...

What an amazingly ignorant comment for somebody running a painting holidays company!

Either you can't read or you have very little knowledge of art and very famous watercolour painters!

I only published your comment so as to warn people that this is a company run by people who have no idea who John Singer Sargent is or when he lived.

One to avoid methinks!


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