About This Artwork

John Singer Sargent
American, 1856–1925

The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy, 1907

Oil on canvas
71.4 x 56.5 cm (28 1/8 x 22 1/4 in.)
Signed, lower left: "John S. Sargent"

Friends of American Art Collection, 1914.57

As one of the most sought-after and prolific portraitists of international high society, American expatriate John Singer Sargent painted the cosmopolitan world to which he belonged with elegance and a bravura touch. Born to American parents residing in Italy, Sargent spent his early adult life in Paris, moving to London in the mid-1880s. The artist traveled frequently, and it was during these trips that he experimented most extensively with painting en plein air, or outdoors. Set in a sunlit garden in the central Italian town of Frascati, this charming double portrait depicts Sargent’s friends and fellow artists Wilfrid and Jane Emmet de Glehn. The painting is filled with light, displaying Sargent’s characteristically dazzling surface articulated with thick impasto and virtuoso brushwork. Jane described the work as a “most amusing and killingly funny picture” in a letter to her sister Lydia. She continued: “I am all in white with a white painting blouse and a pale blue veil around my hat. I look rather like a pierrot, but have a rather worried expression as every painter should who isn’t a perfect fool, says Sargent. Wilfrid is in short sleeves, very idle and good for nothing, and our heads come against the great ‘panache’ of the fountain.”

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 47.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, Twenty-fifth Annual Exhibition of American Oil Paintings and Sculpture, November 5-December 8, 1912, cat. 228.

New York, Grand Central Art Galleries, Retrospective Exhibition of Important Works of John Singer Sargent, February 23-March 22, 1924, cat. 48.

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Memorial Exhibition of the Work of John Singer Sargent, January 4-February 14, 1926, cat. 50.

State Fair of Texas, Art Department, 1933 Exhibition Showing the Changes in Painting for the Last Hundred Years in Europe and America, 1933, cat. 76.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress, June 1-November 1, 1934, cat. 407.

Indiana, South Bend Art Association, American Painting in the Manner of the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, February 10-March 31, 1948, cat. 46.

Art Institute of Chicago, Sargent, Whistler and Mary Cassatt, January 14-February 25, 1954; traveled to New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, March 25-May 23, 1954.

Grand Rapids Art Museum, Cassatt, Whistler, Sargent Exhibition, September 15-October 15, 1955, cat. 27.

Durand Art Institute, Lake Forest College, A Century of American Painting: Masterpieces Loaned by The Art Institute of Chicago, June 10-16, 1957, cat. 16, as The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati.

Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Private World of John Singer Sargent, April 18-June 14, 1964; traveled to Cleveland Museum of Art, July 7-August 16, 1964; Worcester Art Museum, September 17-November 1, 1964; Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, November 15, 1964-January 3, 1965, cat. 73.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, John Singer Sargent, October 1, 1986-January 4, 1987, cat. 149.

Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, The Lure of Italy, September 16-December 13, 1992; traveled to Cleveland Museum of Art, February 3-April 11, 1993, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, May 23-August 8, 1993, cat. 44.

London, Tate Gallery, John Singer Sargent, October 15, 1998-January 11, 1999, traveled to National Gallery, Washington, D.C. February 28-May 31, 1999, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, June 23-September 26, 1999.

Stanford, Clifornia, Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University, The Changing Garden: European and American Gardens and Parks, June 11-September 7, 2003.

Canberra, Australia, National Gallery of Australia, The Edwardians: Secrets and Desires, March 12–June 14, 2004; traveled to Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia, July 9–September 12, 2004.

London, National Portrait Gallery, Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends, February 12-May 25, 2015; traveled to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, June 29-October 4, 2015, cat. 83.

Publication History

Giselle D’Unger, “The Chicago Beautiful—Woman and Art The Vital Forces,” Fine Arts Journal, 30 (January-June 1914), p. 302, ill.

“Gifts of the Friends,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, 7 (April 1914), p. 158, ill.

General Catalogue of Paintings, Sculpture and Other Objects in the Museum, (Chicago, 1914), p. 158, ill.

The Art Institute of Chicago Handbook of Paintings and Drawings (Chicago, 1920), p. 45.

Rose V.S. Berry, “John Singer Sargent: Some of His American Work,” Art and Archaeology, 18 (September 924), p. 100, ill. p. 99.

William Howe Downes, John S. Sargent: His Life and Work (Boston, 1925), pp. 62, 227, ill. f. p. 272).

A Guide to the Paintings in the Permanent Collection (Chicago, 1925), p. 152.

A Guide to the Paintings in the Permanent Collection (Chicago, 1932), p. 170.

Charles Merrill Mount, John Singer Sargent: A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1955), p. 449.

Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1961), p. 411.

Richard Ormond, John Singer Sargent: Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), p. 75.

Tom Armstrong, “The New Field-McCormick Galleries in the Art Institute of Chicago,” Magazine Antiques, 134, 4 (October 1988), pp. 822-835, pl. 19, p. 835 ill.

Holland Cotter, “Artists From the New World in Love,” New York Times, Sunday, November 1, 1992.

James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture (Chicago / Hudson Hills Press, 1996), p. 15.

Judith A. Barter et al, American Arts at The Art Institute of Chicago: From Colonial Times to World War I, (Art Institute of Chicago, 1998).

Judith A. Barter et al, The Age of American Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2011), no. 39.

Lance Mayer et al., "American Painters on Technique: 1860-1945" (J. Paul Getty Museum/Getty Publications, 2013), cover (ill.).

"Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Highlights of the Collection," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2017) p. 89.

Ownership History

John Singer Sargent, London, England, 1907; sold to the Art Institute, 1914.

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