Sargent watercolors coming to Gloucester | News

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Gloucester’s Sargent House Museum is among a list of world-class art institutions that has acquired works by American artist Emily Sargent (1857-1936), sister of the celebrated portrait painter John Singer Sargent.

The Sargent House Museum, 49 Middle St., joins five other institutions — the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Tate Gallery in London, and the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at Oxford University — receiving the artworks in a distribution by the Sargent family.

The Sargent House Museum received 15 watercolor paintings by Emily Sargent, born to American parents in Rome in 1857. She painted throughout her life but rarely exhibited. “Much of her output was presumed lost after her death, but a cache of some 440 works was found in the attic of a Sargent family home in England more than 60 years later. Following the 1998 discovery, “the works remained in family hands until the current distribution,” according to a press release.

The local museum plans to unveil the works to the public in an exhibit, which will likely include photographs, maps, letters and period costumes highlighting Emily Sargent’s extensive travels through Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. These locations inspired many of the newly acquired works, most of which date to the early 20th century.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to select paintings from this distribution and are delighted with this gift,” said Amanda Hurd, past president of the Sargent House Museum board of directors and current chair of the collections committee. “The Emily Sargent works add an important component to our collections, and we look forward to sharing these beautiful watercolors with the public.”

The donation reflects a long-standing relationship with the Sargent family. Emily Sargent donated her brother’s portraits of their father, Dr. Fitz William Sargent, in 1924, and their mother, Mary Newbold Singer Sargent, three of her watercolors to the museum in 1927. Her sister Violet Sargent Ormond donated a fourth Emily Sargent watercolor the same year. Charles Sprague Sargent donated a charcoal portrait of himself by his cousin John Singer Sargent in 1919, when the historic Sargent home became a museum.

The 1782 Georgian house, which overlooks Main Street in downtown Gloucester, holds other family portraits and sculptures, and works by Fitz Henry Lane among others. It also houses New England furnishings dating to 1740, antique linens, decorative fabrics, clothing, and embroidery pieces; and housewares by Paul Revere and other well known early American silversmiths, according to the release.

The Sargent House Museum shares its collections with the public in celebration of the house’s original occupant, Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820), an early advocate of women’s rights.

Emily and John Singer Sargent, both born about a century after Judith Sargent Murray, are descendants of the Gloucester Sargent family. Emily is the great grand-daughter of Fitz William Sargent, Judith Sargent Murray’s brother.

Emily, who lived in Europe, however, did visit the Sargent House Museum in 1919 when the house became a museum. Her signature is recorded in a guest book from the opening exhibit that year.

The museum hosts tours of the house, walking tours of the historic downtown Gloucester neighborhood, exhibits of works by emerging women artists of Cape Ann, and webinars on women’s issues. For more information, visit sargenthouse.org.

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.

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