As a young man the American painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) was passionate about the sea and deeply knowledgeable about ships and seafaring. Between the ages of 18 and 23 he started his career as a professional painter with a remarkable range of maritime works that form the subject of this exhibition and book. The key works are the two versions of the Oyster Gatherers of Cancale, painted in 1878 on the northern coast of Brittany in France, and the group of studies and sketches around them.
The authors relate Sargent's freely handled marine drawings, large and small, to his watercolors, oil sketches, and finished oil paintings of marine subjects. The works demonstrate his transition from a plein-air painter to a tonalist exploring interiors and urban scenes. Also presented is a unique scrapbook, held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that includes more than 50 drawings and sketches, mostly of sea scenes, and postcards and commercial photography of works of art, architecture, and tourist views. This scrapbook provides an intimate glimpse at the thoughts and experiences of the young artist on his first European voyage.