Fine Art

American Watercolor: Opening Doors for Women Artists

Muddy Alligators, by John Singer Sargent. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.)


Sargent (1856-1925), whose star was rising just as Homer’s was fading, reflects a more luxuriant lifestyle. His ships are sun-drenched yachts and Venetian gondolas. The images of this affluent Italian-born American have a romantic, grandiose elegance. One imagines that when he didn’t have a brush in hand, he held a Champagne flute.

While the exhibition begs the questions as to whether Homer or Sargent was the better artist, I have no doubts. It was Sargent. (Sorry, I’m not open to debate.) His paintings not only capture light, they radiate it. Working in Paris and Venice as well as in the U.S., Sargent appears to have been more influenced by European Impressionism than Homer was.  This is most apparent in Sargent’s Group (Siesta in a Swiss Wood). The brushstrokes are dappled, taking cues from Seurat and Van Gogh.


Haskells House, by Edward Hopper. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.)


Besides the usual suspects, the exhibition includes cameos by Man Ray, Edward Hopper. and Charles Demuth. However, the real surprises are the watercolors created at the cusp of Modernity, foreshadowing all that was to come.

American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through May 14, 2017.



Don’t miss Phulkari: The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab, March 12 – July 9, 2017. This vibrant tradition, shaped by women and passed down through generations, has become a powerful symbol of Punjabi cultural identity. These works span a period from the mid-nineteenth century until the Partition of India in 1947, along with contemporary fashions reflecting the Punjab textile tradition.

Note: The 150th Anniversary Exhibition of the American Watercolor Society opens April 3 at the Salamagundi Club in New York City and runs through April 22. The galleries are open every day from 1 to 5 p.m.

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  • APA March 3, 2017 at 8:56 am

    As an artist I always found watercolor to be the most satisfying medium- the works of Georgia 0’Keefe are particularly gorgeous! Thanks Stacia for this lovely article

  • Diane Dettmann March 3, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Thanks Stacia for sharing this interesting article. I wish I lived in the area, sounds like an exciting exhibit. I enjoyed studying art history in college in the 1960s and have toured local galleries over the years. You’ve inspired me to head out to an art exhibit soon!