National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION

Tour: Whistler, Sargent, and Tanner — Americans Abroad in the Late 1800s

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Most major American artists have studied in Europe, and many choose to remain abroad. Indeed, during the late nineteenth century, several of the world’s most influential painters were American expatriates.

James McNeill Whistler led the aesthetic movement that cultivated color harmonies and simplified shapes as “art for art’s sake.” When a boy, he took drawing lessons in St. Petersburg, Russia, and then learned print techniques while making government maps in Washington, D.C. Later in London, Paris, and Venice, Whistler endlessly refined and adjusted his prints and paintings, often taking years to complete his abstracted stylizations.

John Singer Sargent, hailed on both sides of the Atlantic as a society portraitist, was educated in Florence, Rome, and Nice by his wealthy parents. His avant-garde style, founded on the bravura brushwork of the seventeenth-century old masters Frans Hals and Diego Velázquez, gained popular acclaim. Making a sensational debut in Paris in his early twenties, Sargent became famous for his rapid execution of oils and watercolors.

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