John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) Archive

Painter, Muralist, Sculptor

Creator

John Singer Sargent, Emily Sargent

Title

John Singer Sargent Archive

Extent

13 linear feet

Abstract

The John Singer Sargent Archive consists of manuscripts, correspondence, inventories of artworks, biographical information, photographs, scrapbooks, and other personal and business papers related to the life and career of American artist John Singer Sargent.

Inclusive Dates

1880–1955 (bulk 1880s–1926)

Languages

English, French

Access

In process and open for research

Administrative Information

Processed by Kristin Parker

Repository

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Summary

The John Singer Sargent Archive consists of manuscripts, correspondence, inventories of artworks, biographical information, photographs, scrapbooks, and other personal and business papers related to the life and career of American artist John Singer Sargent, as well as research materials gathered by Richard Ormond, great-nephew of the artist. Gifts to the collection came from Warren Adelson, Charles J. Paine, and others. The correspondence series offers insight into Sargent’s early to late career, through letters to commissioned patrons, sitters, business partners, and family and friends, describing works in progress; travels throughout Italy, Switzerland, England, and Boston, Massachusetts; and exhibition planning, including at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Many of the letters are written to author Violet Paget; to Walter Leighton Clark, with whom Sargent cofounded the Grand Central Galleries; and to his sister Emily Sargent. Correspondence also contains illustrated letters to Claude Monet. Over 200 photographs of Sargent show the artist at work primarily outdoors. Two commonplace books and his personal library offer a glimpse into Sargent’s literary interests. Additionally, letters written by Emily Sargent offer a familial perspective on her brother’s life. The collection contains extended family papers assembled by Richard Ormond, Sargent’s great-nephew.

The collection is overseen by the John Singer Sargent Archivist within the Department of the Art of the Americas, with support from the Department of Prints and Drawings.

Biographical/Historical Note

Born in 1856 in Florence, Italy, to two American parents, John Singer Sargent was recognized as a talented artist from a young age. His mother was an avid traveler, curious about the world, and his father was a doctor with roots in Gloucester and Philadelphia. Sargent had a cosmopolitan childhood: he was immersed in European art and culture, speaking French, Italian, and German in addition to English. He studied briefly at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, and at the age of 18 enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and entered the independent atelier of the portrait painter Carolus-Duran. Sargent exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon from 1877, establishing his own studio until 1886, when he moved to London. In 1918, he accepted the role as an official war artist traveling to the Western Front. Sargent became the leading portrait painter of his generation, producing 900 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolors, and countless sketches. By the mid-1900s he left his portrait work and concentrated on large-scale mural commissions for the Boston Public Library; Harvard University’s Widener Library; and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Sargent died in London in 1925, leaving no children. After his death, memorial exhibitions were held in Boston, London, and New York.

Contents and Arrangement

The John Singer Sargent Archive is arranged alphabetically and chronologically. The collection is arranged into the following series:

  • Series 1: John Singer Sargent Correspondence (1880–1924)
  • Series 2: John Singer Sargent Family Correspondence (bulk 1911–1936)
  • Series 3: John Singer Sargent Photographs (1858–1924)
    • Sub-Series: Portraits of John Singer Sargent
    • Sub-Series: Photographs of John Singer Sargent’s Travels
    • Sub-Series: John Singer Sargent Family and Friends
  • Series 4: Will and Estate Records
  • Series 5: Orders, Awards
  • Series 6: Genealogy
  • Series 7: Bound Volumes
    • Sub-Series 1: Commonplace Books
    • Sub-series 2: Scrapbooks
    • Sub-series 3: Personal Library
  • Series 8: Ormond Family Papers
  • Series 9: Reference Collection

Separated Materials

Works of art (sketches in the Department of Prints and Drawings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Related Collections

At the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Catalog Raisonné Research Material, David McKibbin Papers on John Singer Sargent. Works of art from the Department of Prints and Drawing and Art of the Americas. Boston area collections: Boston Athenaeum, Boston Public Library, Harvard University, Historic New England, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

List of Correspondents

John Singer Sargent Outgoing Correspondence (1880–1924)

Correspondent, last name Correspondent, first name Inclusive dates
Allouard-Jouan Emma n.d.
Allouard-Jouan Emma n.d. (1883)
Allouard-Jouan Emma n.d.
Castro Paul di July 14, 1914
Childers Sybil n.d.–1918
Clark Walter Leighton c. 1924
Clark Walter Leighton c. 1924
Clark Walter Leighton c. 1924
Clark Walter Leighton c. 1924
Ephrussi Charles n.d.
Monet Claude n.d.–1889
Monet Claude n.d.–1891
Monet Claude n.d.–1905
National Portrait Gallery, London   January 28, 1919
Ormond Rose Marie 1914–1916
Paget Violet 1880–1881
Paget Violet 1882–1884
Paget Violet 1893–1899
Paget Violet 1906–1910
Paget Matilda 1880, 1883
Paine Charles J. 1904
Priestly Flora 1894–1912
Sargent Emily n.d.–1914
Sargent Emily 1916–1923
Sassoon Philip n.d.–1924
Stephens Henrietta n.d.–1899
Tonks Henry n.d.–1919
Watts Fannie n.d.
Watts Fannie n.d.
Watts Fannie 1876–1888
Watts Fannie 1888–1906
Academie der Kunst, Berlin Fannie 1916
unknown   n.d., 1914
Loeffler Charles Martin March 18, 1921
Notes and Diagrams    
Third Party Correspondence    

John Singer Sargent Family Correspondence

Correspondent from to Inclusive dates
Emily Sargent Violet Paget (Vernon Lee) 1880–1890
Emily Sargent Henry Tonks 1911–1932
Emily Sargent Henry Tonks 1932–1934
Emily Sargent Henry Tonks 1934–1936
Henry Tonks Emily Sargent April 15, 1925–February 28, 1930
Henry Tonks Emily Sargent January 9, 1931–December 15, 1931
Henry Tonks Emily Sargent January 19, 1932–December 24, 1932
Henry Tonks Emily Sargent January 3, 1933–December 22, 1933
Henry Tonks Emily Sargent January 12, 1934–July 13, 1934
Henry Tonks Emily Sargent July 24, 1934–December 26, 1934
Henry Tonks Emily Sargent February 8, 1935–September 18, 1935

John Singer Sargent Family Correspondence

Correspondent from to Inclusive dates
Henry Tonks Emily Sargent October 8, 1935–April 15, 1936
Mary Steer and Mabel Robinson Henry Tonks 1930–1924
Mary Newbold Singer various 1854–1857