Sargent spent the summer or early autumn between 1885 and 1889 in the English countryside. He had come from Paris, where his precocious talent was the talk of the town, his portraits and genre pictures garnering critical acclaim at the Salon and at smaller exhibition venues.
Sargent’s three riverside summers began in July 1887 in the Thames Valley, where he spent the week of the Henley Regatta, painting from an improvised studio-boat. In using it, Sargent was emulating Monet, who had painted from a bateau-atelier at Argenteuil and then at Vétheuil from around 1873. This period marks the highpoint of Sargent’s veneration of Monet. He visited him at Giverny at some point during the summer and purchased two works by him.
The present study is undated and the model unidentified. A young girl is represented in profile, seated cross-legged beside a stream, reading a book. Her dress is difficult to pin down, reading more as picturesque costume than as a contemporary garment. There is no horizon to provide context, the picture plane is tipped up so that the water provides the reflective background, and there is a sense created of an enclosed natural space.
P.S. A few years earlier Sargent spent one of the summers on the picturesque Italian island of Capri. The painter got involved in a hot romance with the pretty Rosina Ferrara. She became his lover and his muse. Read their story and see the beautiful paintings here. <3