BOSTON, MASS.- The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
opened The Inscrutable Eye: Watercolors by John Singer Sargent in Isabella Stewart Gardners Collection, on view in the Fenway Gallery from October 31, 2013 through January 20, 2014. It includes eight watercolor paintings by John Singer Sargent that highlight his unique relationship with the Museums founder, Isabella Stewart Gardner. The exhibition runs concurrent to the Museum of Fine Arts, Bostons exhibition John Singer Sargent Watercolors.
Gardner and Sargent enjoyed a long-lasting and singular friendship, said Anne Marie Eze, Associate Curator of the Collection at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. They first met in the artists studio in London in October of 1886 by arrangement of their mutual friend, Henry James. The writer took her to see Sargents infamous painting Madame X which thrilled Isabella with its audacity, so much that when they next met in Boston she commissioned Sargent to paint her likeness.
Alongside the eight watercolors by Sargent, there are personal mementos kept by Gardner from the interactions and visits between the two friends including letters and photos. The exhibition is the first time watercolors and personal artifacts illustrating their lifelong friendship and shared passion for art are being displayed.
Sargents best-known paintings in the Museums collection are arguably his Portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner and El Jaleo, but dozens of other works by Sargent are also displayed throughout the Museum. This exhibition offers a look at the vibrant watercolors Sargent made for his own pleasure that were avidly collected by Gardner towards the end of her life. With skilled technique and fresh colors, the paintings show the artists true draftsmanship.
Isabella Stewart Gardner acquired 42 of Sargents artworks during their 40 years of friendship, collecting pieces from every stage of his career. She owned genre paintings, formal oil portraits, watercolors, studies for public murals and personal sketches. Gardner purchased many of the watercolor paintings on display through buying gifts Sargent made for his friends as they came onto the public market.
Gardner kept nearly two hundred of the letters that Sargent sent to her, some of which she displayed alongside photographs of him. In 1903 she allowed Sargent to use the Gothic Room as his studio for portraits and gave him permission to move around and use the antique furniture as props to his satisfaction. A decade later, Gardner created the Spanish Cloister to showcase Sargents El Jaleo which can be viewed in the Museum.