The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy, 1907
John Singer Sargent
The Art Institute of Chicago, Friends of American Art Collection
Best known for his lavishly painted society portraits, John Singer Sargent here commemorated a painting excursion he and close friends Jane and Wilfrid von Glehn took to the famed Villa Torlonia outside of Rome. After 1906 Sargent began to produce fewer commissioned portraits, preferring instead to paint works that combined informal, intimate portraiture with light-saturated landscapes. Although it appears to be a spontaneous celebration of plein-air painting, this work was completed over several days and was frequently interrupted by rain. Thus, Sargent employed an approach similar to that of his indoor portraits; however, his use of rich impressionistic effects, such as the play of sunlight on a variety of surfaces, distinguishes this work from his studio paintings.