I just returned from a long weekend in Washington, D.C. Although I was visiting for other reasons, I always plan to visit at least one of the many (almost too many) museums around Washington and suburban Maryland and Virginia.
My itinerary on this trip included an exhibit of art work by John Singer Sargent. I think I had seen the exhibit mentioned and promoted in the September edition of Smithsonian magazine, but it could have been at their online site or somewhere else entirely; it’s not really important.
What was important, to me anyway, was that I was in town and there was a current exhibit of a premiere American artist and watercolorist.
It was titled Sargent and the Sea, and it's showing at the Corcoran Gallery of Art through January 3, 2010. The Corcoran is one of the Washington museums that I have wanted to visit on several occasions, but was just never quite able to make it. I missed an Edward Hopper exhibit that I think was there on a previous visit, and this time was going to be different. I would visit the Sargent exhibition, and so I did.
The Corcoran is located at 500 17th St. NW, which, if you know Washington, is right around the corner from the White House. So I felt like I was in good company.
Last weekend was terrible, weather-wise, in the Northeast (part of the US). It was unseasonably cold—like 42 degrees F, so I’m talking a heavy coat, and to make matters worse, it rained for three straight days.
Okay, I’ll stop complaining, because the city and the exhibit were great, no matter the weather. There are few places on the planet where you can immerse yourself in as much culture and art, but Washington, D.C. is certainly one of them.
Anyway, I enjoyed learning way more than I had known, both about John Singer Sargent and the Corcoran. As it turned out, there were very few, hardly any actually, of Sargent’s watercolors, which was the main reason that I had wanted to come.
I don’t think I remembered that the exhibit was called Sargent and the Sea, but that did mean that all of his artwork exhibited had something to do with the sea. I know that not all of Sargent’s work was about water, but I was surprised at just how much there was on exhibit that did.
In the first room, which was sort of like a rotunda, or at least it was round, there were mostly pencil drawing of ships and all kinds of rigging. What surprised me about these drawings were that they were so small, and yet, so detailed. I’m talking little, itty-bitty pencil drawings no larger that 3 x 5 inches (7.6 x 12.7 cm).
There were two other rooms (not round) in the exhibit. Most were Sargent’s oil paintings, and only a few were his watercolors. I’m sorry, I didn’t record which ones they were, but there were only a couple—really, only a few.
Sargent’s magnificent oil paintings more than made up for the dearth of his watercolors. The main attraction was not only the famous painting, En Route pour la Pêche (Setting Out to Fish),but also the many ‘studies’ he did of the people and the parts of thispainting. There were at least six or seven additional paintings that he did before he finally painted the painting.
Oh, and another bonus, I did get to see one of Edward Hopper’s famous paintings, Ground Swell, which was hanging right there on the first floor of the Corcoran!