John Singer Sargent Murals in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Born in Italy to American parents, trained in Paris, and a resident of London, Sargent became Boston’s favorite painter in the 1880s. Acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic for his brilliant oil portraits, after the turn of the century he applied his talents to other forms and media, including public mural projects. The commissions from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to decorate its new building’s most important public spaces—the grand staircase and rotunda— resulted in one of Sargent’s last and most ambitious works, the culmination of his career as a creator of great decorative schemes. Sargent regarded the entire space as a giant canvas and brought together all the pictorial, decorative, and architectural elements with a painter’s skill and vision. This compact volume offers a comprehensive guide to the murals and their surroundings, elucidating their allegorical subjects drawn from classical mythology to emphasize the museum’s role as the guardian of fine arts. It also explores their artistic sources, creation, and initial reception, as well as recounting the restoration that allows visitors to experience in its original splendor one of the most striking Beaux-Arts interiors in Boston and a crowning achievement of Sargent’s career. About the MFA Spotlight Series Each volume in the MFA Spotlight series illuminates a significant work in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s collection, offering a brief and engaging introduction to its creation and history.
Carol Troyen is Kristin and Roger Servison Curator Emerita of American Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Pamela Hatchfield is Robert P. and Carol T. Henderson Head of Objects Conservation, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Lydia Vagts is Cunningham Associate Conservator of Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.