images from aretrenewal.com
Above and below Sorolla. Back when I was studying with R.H.Ives Gammell he would tell us he was teaching us to "see". He would say of a drawing or painting,"it is not well seen" He believed that the skill of drawing was "learning to see". He received this phrase from Paxton, his teacher, I assume, although it was in common usage when he was a student.
I believe it is this quality, "seeing" that characterizes the work of these three painters and is the great thing they have in common. Yesterday I was painting in McClellandville, South Carolina and an older man came up to me and started talking about painting, he evidently did it. He asked me what I thought of Cezanne and I didn't say too much. After being pressed several times I told him I was not much interested in Cezanne, he asked me why, and I told him. He then asked me who I did like, and I said Sargent, I admire a lot of artists but I figured he would know that one. He did, and he told me that the critics ( and he) preferred Cezanne because he was an innovator and Sargent wasn't. I went back to work. Everybody wants to explain painting to me, I seldom get much I can use on the blog. The next two paintings are by Sargent.
Apart from the idea of setting innovation ahead of the appearance of the actual paintings, I felt he was wrong and thought about it for a while. I decided after about an hours mulling it over that this "seeing" was their innovation. No painters work before them had quite as much of that quality (except perhaps Vermeer) and that was what the critics were overlooking. They probably missed that because they didn't paint, I don't know.
I suppose for an innovation to be truly innovative it must cast an influence beyond the artists own work. Sargent certainly did that. A whole generation or two almost worshiped him. I think tomorrow I will show one or two of those. Zorn painted the two below.
This "seen" quality means that the paintings look more like vision. There is a softness of edge and a simplification. But also they are painted from direct observation in a way that really drew from the impressionists working methods as much as from the academic ( do you remember the post I did recently defining impressionism the way 19th many century painters thought of it?)