A Day at the Art Institute

The Art Institute of Chicago is featuring a John Singer Sargent exhibit through the end of September. I hadn’t visited the museum in years, but a friend is a member and she and I both love Sargent’s work, so off we went.

It was a learning experience. I was familiar with Sargent’s lush society portraits, but I didn’t know he also painted in watercolor and moved on to landscapes later in life. The works displayed highlighted his connections to Chicago: paintings and drawings of members of the Deering and Pullman families, among others. They also highlighted his world travels and friendships with other artists, some of whose work was also displayed.

One portrait that caught my eye was that of fellow artist Charles Herbert Woodbury. The rendering of the eyeglass lenses with just a few strokes of white boggled me.

Charles Herbert Woodbury 

If I touched these painting surfaces, I imagined I would feel the smooth slip of silk and the softness of velvet.

Mrs. George Swinton 

Mrs. Hugh Hammersley 


Study of Two Bedouins

Syrian Goats










In later years, Sargent stepped away from portraiture. He traveled to the Middle East, Europe, and Canada and concentrated on plein air painting, or painting outdoors.








Lake O’Hara



Terrace, Vizcaya



The Deering family of Chicago collected Sargent’s work, and several family members were close friends of his. He visited their Florida home and painted a series of watercolors of both it and the surrounding area.




It was a wonderful exhibit. I’m glad I was able to view it.




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About Kristine Smith

Kristine Smith is the author of the Jani Kilian series and a number of SF and fantasy short stories, and is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She worked as a pharmaceutical process development scientist for 26 years, but now writes full-time. She also writes supernatural thrillers under the name Alex Gordon. Check out her BVC bookshelf


A Day at the Art Institute — 6 Comments

    • It was on all summer, and I thought I had plenty of time until, hey, just a couple of weeks left.

      Some of the paintings are part of the Art Institute collection, so you could see those at least.

  1. I love Sargent’s work. As an 18th & 19th century illustrators nerd, I think his works reflects that same dramatic, brilliant moodiness. How luck to have seen that show!

    • My friend and I kept putting it off and putting it off. Then summer blew by and we had three weeks to get ourselves down to the city and lots of travel plans to work around. I’m glad we made it.