Untitled Document
"Sargent and the Sea" at the Royal Academy in London, September 2010
posted October 20, 2010 at 4:50 PM

After viewing the exhibition "Sargent and the Sea" at the Royal Academy in London, I was overwhelmed with a sensation of nostalgia for those cool ocean breezes so common in late September afternoons. John Singer Sargent's (1856-1925) work from early in his career as a painter exemplify his artistic ability at a young age (he was in his early 20's when he sailed across the Atlantic on his way to the US with his family), able to capture stormy ocean scenes full of mystery and romance. Born in Italy to American parents, his family life consisted of constantly traveling around Europe in those early years.

As is explained in the exhibition's supporting materials, Sargent's mother was drawn to a nomadic lifestyle and also instigated a love for art and adventure in the young Sargent, who had his family's full support to pursue his nascent talent. Better known for his portraiture work, such as the infamous portrait of Madame X (1883, at the Metropolitan in New York), in this selection of his work, we perceive a natural talent towards transmitting the light and sensation of the moment. In his painting, Atlantic Storm (1876), the waves seem like mountains looming ominously behind the boat. The mysterious sketches of two other boats appear, giving a certain surreal quality to the work. The vertiginous angle of the rear of the boat draws the viewer into the painting. Sargent's perspective of the scene he remembered from the trip across the Atlantic is unique in its intensity and looseness.