Venetian Glass Workers

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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

Venetian Glass Workers is one of many genre scenes featuring workers painted by John Singer Sargent at the beginning of the 1880s. In this painting, Sargent focused on the contrast between the dank surroundings and the scintillating products of the workers' labor, subtly noting the separation of native production and tourist consumption of Venetian glassware. The laborers participate in a process that transforms long, thin glass tubes into beads. The woman in the right foreground slices glass tubes into uniform lengths that will be placed in a metal drum with an abrasive mixture. When the drum is heated and turned, the mixture smoothes the edges of the cut glass and forms rounded beads. Women employed as bead stringers would then prepare the multi-hued, sparkling bits of glass for sale.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, The Friends of American Art Loan Exhibition of American Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, January 8-January 28, 1914, no. 1.

Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the Late John Singer Sargent, November 3-December 27, 1925, no. 14.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress, June 1-November 1, 1933, no. 480.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress, June 1-November 1, 1934, no. 411.

Appleton, Wisconsin, Lawrence College, New Alexander Gymnasium, Loan Exhibition of American Paintings at Lawrence College, September 22-October 4, 1937, no. 6.

San Francisco, Golden Gate International Exposition, Historical American Paintings, February 18-October 29, 1939, no. 20.

Milwaukee Art Institute, Nineteenth Century American Masters, February 20-March 28, 1948, no. 36.

Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Private World of John Singer Sargent, April 18-June 14, 1964, no. 15; traveled to Cleveland Museum of Art, July 7-August 16; Worcester Art Museum, September 17-November 1; Utica, N.Y., Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, November 15, 1964-January 3, 1965.

Dayton Art Institute, American Expatriate Painters of the Late Nineteenth Century, December 4, 1976-January 16, 1977, Michael Quick, cat. no. 43, ill. color pl. 24, p. 38; traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, February 4-March 20, 1977; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, April 12-May 29, 1977.

Albi, France, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Trésors Impressionnistes du Musée de Chicago, (June 27-Aug. 31, 1980), p. 63, ill.

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, John Singer Sargent, October 1986-January 1987, no number.

Nagaoka, Japan, Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Masterworks of Modern Art from the Art Institute of Chicago, April 20-May 29, 1994; traveled to Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, June 10-July 24; Yokohama Museum of Art, August 6-September 25, 1994.

Williamstown, Mass., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Uncanny Spectacle: The Public Career of the Young John Singer Sargent, June 12 - September 14, 1997, no. 12.

Publication History

William Howe Downes, John S. Sargent: His Life and Work (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1925) p. 144, ill. facing p. 88

Evan Charteris, John Sargent (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1927), p. 282.

Charles Merrill Mount, John Singer Sargent: A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1955), p. 445, no. K8220, 1969 ed. p. 463.

Richard Ormond, John Singer Sargent: Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), p. 30.

Margaretta M. Lovell, “American Artists in Venice, 1860-1920,” Antiques, 127 (April 1985), pp. 864-9.

James N. Wood and Katharine C. Lee, Masterpiece Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1988).

Margaretta M. Lovell, A Visitable Past: Views of Venice by American Artists 1860-1915 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 77, 79, ill. p. 80, fig. 91.

Hugh Honour and John Fleming, The Venetian Hours of Henry James, Whistler and Sargent (Boston, Toronto, London: Little, Brown and Company, 1991), p. 66, color ill.

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. 32.

Cheryll L. May, "A Seamless Web: Transatlantic Art in the Nineteenth Century," ed. Marian Wardle (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), p. 173 (ill.).

Ownership History

Friedrich Wilhelm Carl Bechstein, Berlin, by 1886. Hotel Drouot, Paris , by 1895. Charles Hovey Pepper, (Paris?), by 1896. Macbeth Gallery, New York, by 1911; Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson, Chicago, 1912; by descent to Mrs. Martn A. Ryerson, Chicago, 1932; bequeathered to the Art Institute, 1933.