Setting Out to Fish, John Singer Sargent, 1878

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) is best known for his glamorous society portraits. However, he also had an obsession for painting marine landscapes; a passion developed when still a young man, living in Brittany, Normandy, and Nice. 

Some of his earliest paintings show the influence of Turner, with the dark tonal sketches of riggings and sails, and the elemental power of the waves.

 Wharf Scene by John Singer Sargent

 Sketching on the Gludecca by John Singer Sargent

In the more intimate painting below you can almost feel the glaring heat radiating out of the canvas. The child with the pigs' bladders strapped to his back - a Victorian form of water wings - could almost be a Cupid or Putto, such as those found in classical Italian paintings, but with a stark sense of 'modernity'.
Neopolitan Children Bathing by John Singer Sargent

For related posts with yet more examples of the work of John Singer Sargent, please see -


  1. Interesting, isn't it, that a glamorous society portrait painter could go down to the docks, to paint working ships and the labouring class. The dark tonal sketches of riggings and sails suggest that he was a thoughtful man, and not just a well-connected social butterfly.

  2. I wonder if the romanticism of the docks and sea was such a magnet that he just HAD to paint them. I could imagine such a thing, as I'm drawn to them as well. Love this post.

  3. The paintings are just beautiful. Lucky you to have been able to see and enjoy them.

  4. Love JSS. Thanks for highlighting him. These are wonderful!

  5. I love these paintings, must confess I'd never heard of John Singer Sargant. You can see the Turner influence and I'll defiantly look out for him. Wharf Scene is my favourite. love to see more. Great post Essie!