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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > Summer 17 > Sparkling light and loosely defined forms

Sparkling light and loosely defined forms

John Singer Sargent was the most familiar portrait painter in oils of his generation, but his watercolours are less recognised, says Susie Hodge, who reviews Sargent: The Watercolours, this summer’s must-see exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery


Disregarding late 19th-century painting conventions with his non-traditional watercolour techniques, John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) produced bold and vibrant watercolours in jewel-bright hues, with both close-up contrasts, and loosely defined forms.

This summer the Dulwich Picture Gallery are showing 80 of these watercolours – fluid, dazzling works revealing what Sargent chose to paint, rather than what others commissioned him to do. They were painted between 1900 and 1918 and include themes that inspired him while travelling through Europe and the Middle East, and observations such as sunlight on stone, figures reclining on grass, patterns of light and shade, and friends in repose. Often painting in the open air, he imbued these works with his fluent, rhythmic marks, creating images that sparkle with light and colour, and demonstrate his remarkably astute eye that captured the essentials he needed to convey the energy and vitality of passing moments.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our summer issue packed with ideas and tips for painting outside, including Paul Weaver's demonstration showing how to capture the spirit of the seaside in watercolour. Watercolourists will also love Paul Talbot-Greaves' focus on how to use neutral and dark colours to add impact to your paintings, Julie Collins' advice on using ultramarine blue, and our review of the fabulous exhibition of John Singer Sargent's watercolours at Dulwich Picture Gallery. There are inspirational features on mastering perspective, capturing a likeness of a family member in oils, painting the figure alla prima, how to create movement in wildlife paintings in acrylics, and why you should consider the use of digital technology to support your traditional painting methods. Our artists also share their views on the new Winsor & Newton professional canvases and Jaxell's extra fine pastels, while our cover artist, Eileen Cooper OBE, RA talks about her own work, as well as the organisation and decision making behind this year's Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. All this and much more to inspire a summer of successful drawing and painting!