Brook Among Rocks

This watercolor is representative of a very interesting part of the the long and bountiful career of John Singer Sargent. Standing at roughly fourteen by twenty inches this diverse array of colors presents an abstraction of a bubbling brook. The blue stream before us interacts with the geography around it in a cool and refreshing way. Sargent utilizes a full variety of line to define the values and shapes of the landscape. Wide opaque brushstrokes blend greens and browns to create the grasses of the fields. Strong and intense blue lines define the rocks and small boulders, their value draws the eye into the stream. The water is composed of a variety of small swirling brushstrokes where Sargent so excellently displays the physics of water and light. The rocks beneath the surface appear in an amber hue characteristic to wet stone. The perspective beneath the brook is spot on. The slope of rocks descending into the water dramatically shifts at the surface, and the stream appears shallow and magnified. The colors from the stream seem to reflect up onto the shore unifying the landscape, and spilling the cool sensation of the water onto the rocks among the brook.

While we do not know much about the specific history of this watercolor it is representative of a greater era of Sargent's work. To many he is commonly known for his late nineteenth century portraiture which for decades produced some of the most emotional and resonate faces in art. For years his subject matter did not expand past the confines of white upper middle class society, but in the last decade of his life he departed from portraiture and entered the world of landscape. This shift was a dramatic transition for Sargent given that his portfolio up until this point did not have this subject or medium. While his earlier work was truly apart of the global art economy these final years appeared to be more introspective. The work that he produced in this final decade was personal and unique in ways we had not seen from Sargent. "Brook Among Rocks" shows to us the skill of a great artist in a new era of his career.


Brook Among Rocks, John Singer Sargent, c. 1906-1908, 14 x 20 1/6 in, watercolor over graphite on paper