This summer, Dulwich Picture Gallery will present the first major UK exhibition of watercolours by the Anglo-American artist, John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), in nearly 100 years.

Sargent: The Watercolours will bring together 80 works from arguably Sargent’s greatest period of watercolour production between 1900 and 1918.

Renowned as the leading portraitist of his generation, Sargent mastered the medium of watercolour during his painting expeditions to Southern Europe and the Middle East, where he developed a distinctive way of seeing and composing. Whilst these watercolours have often been dismissed as simple travel souvenirs, they were an integral part of Sargent’s artistic production.

Arranged thematically, the exhibition will showcase Sargent’s landscapes, architectural structures and figurative scenes. It will draw attention to the most radical aspects of his oeuvre, in particular his use of the close-up to focus attention on a specific motif, his unusual use of perspective and the arresting and dynamic poses of his figures. The show will also serve as a startling reminder of Sargent’s mastery of the visual complexities of light, the effects of which are present in almost every one of his works.

Richard Ormond, co-curator of the exhibition, said: “In Sargent’s watercolours we see his zest for life and his pleasure in the act of painting. The fluency and sensuality of his paint surfaces, and his wonderful command of light, never cease to astonish us. With this exhibition we hope to demonstrate Sargent’s mastery of the medium and the scale of his achievement.”

Sargent: The Watercolours will start 21 June and run until 8 October 2017.

All images courtesy of Dulwich Picture Gallery | Main image: John Singer Sargent, The Lady with the Umbrella, 1911, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, with body colour, 65 x 54 cm, Museu de Montserrat. Donated by J. Sala Ardiz. Image © Dani Rovira

John Singer Sargent, Spanish Fountain, 1912, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 53.3 x 34.6 cm, © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
John Singer Sargent, Spanish Fountain, 1912, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 53.3 x 34.6 cm, © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

John Singer Sargent, The Church of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, c. 1904-9, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 36.7 x 53.8 cm, © Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon. Photo: Catarina Gomes Ferreira
John Singer Sargent, The Church of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, c. 1904-9, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 36.7 x 53.8 cm, © Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon. Photo: Catarina Gomes Ferreira

John Singer Sargent, A Turkish Woman by a Stream, c. 1907, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, with touches of body colour, 35.9 x 50.8 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum. Bequeathed by Miss Dorothy Barnard. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
John Singer Sargent, A Turkish Woman by a Stream, c. 1907, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, with touches of body colour, 35.9 x 50.8 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum. Bequeathed by Miss Dorothy Barnard. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

John Singer Sargent, Group of Spanish Convalescent Soldiers, c. 1903, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, with body colour, 29.9 cm x 40.7 cm, Private Collection
John Singer Sargent, Group of Spanish Convalescent Soldiers, c. 1903, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, with body colour, 29.9 cm x 40.7 cm, Private Collection

John Singer Sargent, Highlanders Resting at the Front, 1918, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 34.3 cm x 53.5 cm, © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
John Singer Sargent, Highlanders Resting at the Front, 1918, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 34.3 cm x 53.5 cm, © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

John Singer Sargent, Loggia, View at the Generalife, c. 1912, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 39.4 x 53.2 cm, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections. Purchased in 1927, half the auction price met by Sir James Murray
John Singer Sargent, Loggia, View at the Generalife, c. 1912, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 39.4 x 53.2 cm, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections. Purchased in 1927, half the auction price met by Sir James Murray

John Singer Sargent, Blind Musicians, 1912, watercolour on paper, on preliminary pencil, 39.4 x 53 cm, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections. Purchased in 1927, half the auction price met by Sir James Murray
John Singer Sargent, Blind Musicians, 1912, watercolour on paper, on preliminary pencil, 39.4 x 53 cm, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections. Purchased in 1927, half the auction price met by Sir James Murray

John Singer Sargent, Bed of a Torrent, c. 1904, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 36 x 51 cm, Royal Watercolour Society, London. Image © Justin Piperger
John Singer Sargent, Bed of a Torrent, c. 1904, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 36 x 51 cm, Royal Watercolour Society, London. Image © Justin Piperger

John Singer Sargent, Italian sailing Vessels at Anchor, c. 1904-07, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 35.2 x 50.3 cm, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Presented by Miss K. de Hochpied Larpent, 1943. Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
John Singer Sargent, Italian sailing Vessels at Anchor, c. 1904-07, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 35.2 x 50.3 cm, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Presented by Miss K. de Hochpied Larpent, 1943. Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

John Singer Sargent, A Street in Spain, c. 1880, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 23.8 x 32.1 cm, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Presented by Miss Mabel Price, 1935. Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
John Singer Sargent, A Street in Spain, c. 1880, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 23.8 x 32.1 cm, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Presented by Miss Mabel Price, 1935. Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

John Singer Sargent, Villa Borghese, Temple of Diana, c. 1906-07, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 35.2 x 50.3 cm, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Presented by Mrs Ormond, the artist's sister, 1937. Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
John Singer Sargent, Villa Borghese, Temple of Diana, c. 1906-07, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, 35.2 x 50.3 cm, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Presented by Mrs Ormond, the artist’s sister, 1937. Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

John Singer Sargent, Palma, Majorca, 1908, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, with touches of body colour, 36.2 x 52.6 cm, © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
John Singer Sargent, Palma, Majorca, 1908, watercolour on paper, over preliminary pencil, with touches of body colour, 36.2 x 52.6 cm, © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Unknown photographer, Sargent painting a watercolour in the Simplon Pass, c. 1910-11, Sargent Archive, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Unknown photographer, Sargent painting a watercolour in the Simplon Pass, c. 1910-11, Sargent Archive, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston