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Film | John Singer Sargent: Parks and Gardens

We are pleased to offer this talk as part of our online Public Programme. Available as film only.

Sargent (1856-1925) is famous as a portraitist, but in fact he painted more landscapes and figure studies than portraits.

This talk exploring John Singer Sargent’s garden paintings is hosted by Richard Ormond, co-author of the nine-volume catalogue raisonné of Sargent’s work and a great-nephew of the artist.

His early master-piece, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885-6, Tate, London,) encapsulates the lessons he had learnt from Impressionism, in particular from his friend Claude Monet, allied to an ambitious figure composition. Two young girls in white are lighting Japanese lanterns at dusk, over-topped by giant lilies and rose-bushes, in a garden extravaganza entirely painted out-of-doors.

Post-1900, when Sargent escaped from portraiture to paint on the continent en plein-air, lush flower studies give way to elegant parks and gardens painted in the royal palaces of Aranjuez and La Granja in Spain, the Villa Marlia and the Villa Collodi near Lucca and the Villa Torlonia at Frascati in Italy. Sunlit fountains and flower-beds, box hedges and cypress trees, embrace the vivid atmosphere of the here-and-now allied to the hauntings of past times when these beautiful places were created.

Richard Ormond

  • Bio


    Richard Ormond, CBE, is currently director of the Sargent catalogue raisonné project, and co-author of the nine volumes published by Yale University Press (1998-2016). He is a great-nephew of the artist. Since 1964, he has curated many Sargent exhibitions, including ‘Sargent: Artists and Friends’, shown at the National Portrait Gallery, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015; ‘Sargent Water-Colours’ at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, 2017; and ‘Sargent’s Portrait Charcoals’, Morgan Library, New York Oct. 2019-Jan. 2020), and Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C. (March-June 2020).

    Richard Ormond is the former Director of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK (1986-2000) and a former Deputy Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London (1975-83). He was responsible for the $20million refurbishment of the National Maritime Museum, and for a sequence of spectacular exhibitions, including Armada, Mutiny on the Bounty, Henry VIII, Pirates, Titanic and the Story of Time. He served as the Samuel H. Kress professor at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 2001-02. He has written extensively on 19th century British art, and authored books and catalogues on Frederic, Lord Leighton, Sir Edwin Landseer, F.X. Winterhalter and G.F. Watts. He was until recently the long-serving chairman of the Watts Gallery Trust. He is married to Leonee Ormond, Emerita Professor and Fellow of King’s College, London, and they have two sons.