John Singer Sargent painted the intimate scene Two Women Asleep In A Punt Under The Willows during the year 1887. Influenced by his Impressionist friend, Claude Monet, the artist experimented painting en plein air, meaning he painted outside. This was a significant shift in the painter’s style and technique. During this same year, Sargent painted his masterpiece Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, also en plein air.
As a young man, Sargent learned to paint following the traditional guidelines of the classic academies. The painter even traveled to learn more about the past masters and their artistic process, like El Greco and Diego Velazquez. But, as one of Carolus Duran’s pupils, he began to understand how to work in a more modern way. The artist structured his paintings less and worked more freely with his brush.
During a period, he achieved a clear balance between modern and classic painting. Sargent was most famous for painting traditional portraits and worked with many commissions per year, but ultimately he grew tired of working for the high-class society. These paintings took a lot of time and effort to complete, and although they gained much praise from the Paris Salon – which boosted his career – he was eager to find new and more fulfilling projects. The death of his mother, a renowned watercolor painter, was a pivot point for the painter to experiment with new techniques and themes.
The painting Two Women Asleep In A Punt Under The Willows was done en plein air and captures an intimate scene of two women taking a nap in a boat under the shade. The Impressionists valued painting in the environment they are portraying so that they could experience it entirely and capture the fleeting effects of sunlight. Also, as a modern influence, the ordinary subjects of the everyday life was just as appealing as the traditional themes were to the classic masters – like biblical or mythological stories and even portraits of influential people. With expressive brush strokes and vibrant colors, Sargent was able to paint this landscape with an Impressionist style. The boat is red-brown, and the two girls lay on a bright red fabric. The specks of light shine through the leaves of the towering tree, creating a peaceful atmosphere.
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