Henry Tonks caricature, “John Singer Sargent painting,” 1918.
BOSTON, MASS. — The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) has announced the establishment of the John Singer Sargent Archive, formed with a recent gift of letters, photographs and sketches that document the artist’s life and world, given by Richard Ormond (Sargent’s grand-nephew) and his wife Leonée, and Warren Adelson together with his wife, MFA Overseer Jan Adelson.
The MFA is renowned for its collection of Sargent works, and the artist considered Boston to be his American home. With its holdings of paintings — including his masterpiece, “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit,” 1882 — in addition to sculpture, watercolors, drawings and murals by the artist, the MFA has the most comprehensive collection of Sargent’s art anywhere.
The addition of the Sargent archive makes the MFA the chief center for Sargent scholarship, bringing the artist’s era to life and enhancing understanding of the man and his work. In celebration of the gift, the exhibition “Yours Sincerely, John S. Sargent” will be on view July 25–November 15, featuring nearly 60 objects in the Edward and Nancy Roberts Family Gallery.
John Singer Sargent letter to Arthur Fairbanks, undated.
Among the correspondence on view, will be 11 letters from Sargent to Claude Monet highlighting his lifelong friendship and admiration for the French Impressionist master. Another letter, carefully written in a neat round hand, describes a certain portrait as a “masterpiece” — it is signed Amélie Gautreau, an appreciative sitter best known today as Madame X. Caricatures of Sargent by friends and fellow artists Henry Tonks and Max Beerbohm add a dose of humor to the typical view of this hard-working artist, while sketches, props and photographs of his studios illuminate his craft.
Many of the items in the exhibition are from a gift of 128 objects and special collections materials donated to the MFA by Jan and Warren Adelson last December. Others works come from the collection of Richard and Leonée Ormond. More objects and archival materials are promised by the Adelsons and the Ormonds to be given to the MFA over time, and other donors may also contribute to the archive in the future.
The establishment of the Sargent Archive continues a tradition of giving begun in 1928-1929, when Sargent’s sisters, Miss Emily Sargent and Mrs Francis Ormond (Richard Ormond’s grandmother), donated 363 drawings by Sargent to the MFA in memory of their brother.
“Perhaps no painter has been more identified with the MFA than John Singer Sargent,” said Malcolm Rogers, the Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “Of all the highlights of my time at the MFA, some of the greatest have been renewing the magnificent Sargent murals in 1999 and providing a beau-tiful new gallery for his ‘Boit Daughters’ in our Art of the Americas Wing in 2010. Now, as I near the end of my tenure at the museum, it is wonderful to find a ‘home’ for the peripatetic Sargent here in Boston.”
The MFA is on the Avenue of the Arts at 465 Huntington Avenue. For more information, www.mfa.org or 617-267-9300.