• England, 1887
  • Oil on canvas
  • Inv. 73
  • Signed: John S. Sargent

Lady and Child Asleep in a Punt under the Willows

John Singer Sargent

Sargent’s Impressionist period can be dated to the latter half of the 1880s, during which he initially concentrated his efforts on producing Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (Tate Britain, London) from 1885–6. The second stage, which occurred a little later, coincides with a period in which he spent some time with Claude Monet in Giverny. Sargent was central to the development of Impressionism in Britain, choosing to show some of his more experimental work at the New English Art Club, which closely followed the latest art trends coming out of France.

In the summer of 1887, Sargent was invited by his friends Robert and Helen Harrison to spend the season at Wargrave, being probable that the composition was painted at Henley-on-Thames. In this work, the two sleepy figures under the shade of a willow tree are being lulled by the gentle movement of a barge in the heat of a summer afternoon. The composition is clearly Impressionist in style, both in its rapid swept back brushstrokes and in its treatment of the light. The same subject was handled various times by Sargent, with the same atmosphere of dolce far niente common to almost all his paintings from the summers of 1887, 1888 and 1889. It is possible that the inspiration for this work came from La Barque [The Boat] (Musée Marmottan, Paris), executed by Monet around 1887.

Mrs. Seymour Trower. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Colnaghi, Sotheby’s, London, 20 July 1921 (no. 223).

H. 56 cm; W. 68.6 cm

Sampaio 2009

Luísa Sampaio, Painting in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon/Milan: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum/Skira, 2009, pp. 234–5, cat. 106.

Ormond and Kilmurray 2010

Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent. Figures and Landscapes, 1883-1899. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2010, pp. 151–2, no. 881.

Updated on 15 june 2022

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