Posted on 04/12/2014

Photo taken on January  5, 2012

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Landscape with Women in the Foreground by Sargent in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, January 2012

Landscape with Women in the Foreground by Sargent in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, January 2012
Landscape with Women in Foreground

John Singer Sargent, American (active London, Florence, and Paris), 1856 - 1925

Geography: Probably made in France, Europe

Date: c. 1883

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 25 x 30 1/2 inches (63.5 x 77.5 cm) Framed: 24 3/4 x 30 1/2 x 2 inches (62.9 x 77.5 x 5.1 cm)

Curatorial Department: European Painting before 1900, Johnson Collection

Object Location: Currently not on view

Accession Number: 2002-49-1

Credit Line: 125th Anniversary Acquisition. Gift of Joseph F. McCrindle, 2002

Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The two young women walking arm in arm along a country path in John Singer Sargent’s Landscape with Women in Foreground could easily have stepped out of one of his early Venetian scenes of 1880–82. Their poses are similar to those of the promenading women in the Venetian Interior from around 1882 in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.

In 1883 in Nice, where his parents were then living, Sargent turned away from the urban imagery of Venice to paint some bold and colorful landscapes that mark the beginning of his Impressionist phase. It is fairly certain that these works, which include this painting, were made in the early months of that year. Generally they show trees in blossom and fresh green foliage. This work is the only one to include figures. The two young women wear contrasting skirts of dark gray and lilac. Sargent probably intended for them to resemble country folk, but they look more like models than workers. Their hair is worn up over their ears with a fringe in front. They are dark-complexioned, Mediterranean in type, slender, graceful, and alluring.

The artist carefully modeled the figures, but the surrounding landscape is painted in broad, swift strokes and a high-keyed palette. The women stroll down a tree-lined path, with a bank to their right that is dotted with flowers. To the left, an olive grove stretches away to a long gray wall, with more trees beyond it and a partially concealed building. Blossom, probably almond, fills the upper-right corner, to which one of the women reaches up in a gesture that is expressive of her carefree character as well as springtime joie de vivre.

This work joins five other oil paintings by Sargent in the Museum’s collection. It is a charming companion to In the Luxembourg Gardens of 1879, another rendering of modern life in France, in which a rather stiff couple strolls in the formal park at dusk. Richard Ormond, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary (2002), p. 92.

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