John Singer Sargent
American, 1856–1925
Venetian Glass Workers
1880/82

Oil on canvas
56.5 x 84.5 cm (22 1/4 x 33 1/4 in.)
Signed, lower left: "John S. Sargent"
Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933.1217

Illuminated with swathes of light against a dark background, bundles of thin glass rods are sorted by laborers in John Singer Sargent's Venetian Glass Workers. The woman in the right foreground is using a zocco, or cutting tool, to slice glass tubes into uniform lengths that will be placed in a metal drum with a mixture of lime, carbonate, sand, carbon, and water. When the drum is heated and turned, the mixture smoothes the edges of the cut glass and forms rounded beads.

In the 1880s, Sargent painted many genre scenes featuring workers. Yet this image is noteworthy for its unusual composition, in which the lightest forms are grouped along the edges, and its dramatic brushwork. The latter shows the influence of Baroque painters such as the Spaniard Diego Vélazquez and the Dutchman Franz Hals. The glass rods have become nearly abstract dashes of color, suggesting the effect of Venice's intense light as it penetrates the space. During frequent visits to Venice, Sargent completed over 100 paintings and watercolors of the city. Devoted to music and a fine pianist, Sargent traded this and another Venetian work to a piano-maker in exchange for a piano in 1886.

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

Sargent was one of the most sought-after and prolific portraitists of international high society. Born to American parents residing in Italy, the artist spent his adult life first in Paris and then in London. He also traveled continually; during these trips, he added outdoor painting to his repertoire. Set in a sunlit garden in the central Italian town of Frascati, this charming double portrait depicts Sargent's friends and fellow artists, the American couple Wilfrid and Jane Emmet de Glehn. The informal composition is filled with light, which displays the characteristically dazzling surface, created with thick impasto and loose brushwork, that placed Sargent among America's pioneering Impressionists.

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