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John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)

At Broadway

Details
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
At Broadway
oil on canvas
18 ¼ x 24 ¼ in. (46.4 x 61.6 cm.)
Painted circa 1885.
Provenance
Mrs. Frank Millet, Broadway, England.
William H. Holston Gallery, New York.
William Church Osborn, New York, 1928.
Mrs. William H. Osborn, daughter-in-law of the above, by descent.
Christie’s, New York, 24 May 1995, lot 23, sold by the above.
The Jordan-Volpe Gallery, New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1997.
Literature
W.H. Downes, John S. Sargent: His Life and Work, London, 1926, p. 372.
E. Charteris, John Sargent, London, 1927, pp. 82, 84, 283.
C.M. Mount, John Singer Sargent: A Biography, New York, 1955, p. 445, no. K863.
C.M. Mount, John Singer Sargent: A Biography, London, 1957, p. 366, no. K863.
C.M. Mount, John Singer Sargent: A Biography, New York, 1969, p. 465, no. K863.
M. Simpson, Reconstructing the Golden Age: American Artists in Broadway, Worcestershire, 1885 to 1889, Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1993, pp. 316-317, fig. 101, illustrated.
R. Ormond, "Sargent's Art," John Singer Sargent, exhibition catalogue, London, 1998, p. 29 (as Landscape at Broadway).
R. Ormond, E. Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes, 1883-1899, vol. V, New Haven, Connecticut, 2010, pp. 105-06, 342, no. 857, illustrated.
Masters of Art: John Singer Sargent, Hastings, England, 2015, n.p., illustrated (as Landscape at Broadway).
Exhibited
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of Works by the Late John S. Sargent, R.A., January 14-March 13, 1926, p. 83, no. 576 (as At Broadway, 1886).
New York, Coe Kerr Gallery, Sargent at Broadway: The Impressionist Years, May 1-June 14, 1986, p. 89, pl. XIV, illustrated (as Landscape at Broadway).

Lot Essay

John Singer Sargent executed At Broadway in the summer or fall of 1885, while visiting with his friends and fellow American artists Francis Davis Millet and Edwin Austin Abbey at Millet's rented house in the village of Broadway in the Cotswolds. Sargent had recently left Paris in the wake of the scandal surrounding Madame X, and he travelled to England where he could reassess his career and consider future plans.

Sargent came to Broadway after sustaining an accident while swimming in the Thames during a boating trip, and Millet and Abbey encouraged him to recuperate with them in the Cotswolds. The atmosphere at Broadway was festive and relaxing, as Sargent was in the company of good friends, including the writers Henry James and Edmund Gosse, as well as the painters Alfred Parsons and Frederick Barnard. In this comfortable setting away from the critics of Paris and London, Sargent pursued his painting, experimenting with unusual compositions and recording the effects of light on the rural landscape.

Sargent's working method at Broadway was unusual for its day, and was a continuation of methods he had practiced while painting in Nice two years earlier. According to Sargent's friend Edmund Gosse, the artist "was accustomed to emerge, carrying a large easel, to advance a little way into the open, and then suddenly to plant himself down nowhere in particular, behind a barn, opposite a wall, in the middle of a field...his object was to acquire the habit of reproducing precisely whatever met his vision without the slightest previous 'arrangement' of detail, the painter's business being, not to pick and choose, but to render the effect before him, whatever it may be..." (as quoted in E. Charteris, John Sargent, London, 1927, p. 77.) At Broadway reflects Gosse's observations, as Sargent has painted the picture without traditional rules regarding landscape composition. The branches and leaves of a tree jut into the upper left corner of the canvas, and the artist has cropped the top of another tree in the center of the composition. Instead of arranging the landscape with traditional elements as focal points, Sargent transforms sunlight into the subject of the picture, enhancing it as it shimmers through the leaves and moves across the green meadow.

Sargent's fascination with the effects of light was the result, in part, of his friendship with Claude Monet. As Marc Simpson has noted, Sargent's landscapes painted at Broadway reveal the influence of Monet's landscapes of Giverny, such as Pré à Giverny of 1885 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), which Sargent had seen while visiting Monet in France. (Reconstructing the Golden Age: American Artists in Broadway, Worcestershire, 1885 to 1889, Ph. D. dissertation, Yale University, 1993, pp. 316-317) In At Broadway, Sargent focuses on the effects of light, carefully observing its qualities at a particular moment and energetically dashing gold pigment across the canvas. The spontaneity of the brushwork suggests that he worked rapidly, perhaps racing to apply the paint before the setting sun disappeared behind the horizon. Sargent's interest in the observation of light at precise moments as seen in At Broadway anticipates the working methods of his early masterwork, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (Tate Gallery, London), which he worked on intermittently from the summer and fall of 1885 until the fall of 1886.

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