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Gallery Text

Though he is best known for his portraits of elite society, Sargent painted numerous scenes in the Alps and the Rockies at the end of his career. Like many of those landscapes, this one is a radical experiment. Sargent disavows the conventions of nineteenth-century landscape painting — the panoramic vista, central focal point, and grand narrative — to focus on a massive rocky outcropping. Drawing inspiration from the work of the French impressionists, he renders the topography of this rock with thickly applied passages of gray and black paint and highlights of vivid color. In the foreground, four figures relaxing in a meadow give a sense of the rock’s massive scale.

Sargent spent three summers in the Simplon Valley, one of the main passes linking Switzerland and Italy. His visits to the region resulted in dozens of sketches and paintings of the Alps, many of which share the abstract qualities of this painting.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
John Singer Sargent, American (Florence, Italy 1856 - 1925 London, England)
In the Simplon Valley
Work Type
c. 1909-1911
Level 2, Room 2700, European and American Art, 19th century, Impressionism and the Late Nineteenth Century
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
96.8 x 115.9 cm (38 1/8 x 45 5/8 in.)
framed: 114 x 133.4 x 7.3 cm (44 7/8 x 52 1/2 x 2 7/8 in.)
The artist's estate sale, Christie's, London, July 24-27, 1925, lot 84; purchased by Scott and Fowles; purchased from them by Grenville L. Winthrop, New York, October 20, 1926; his bequest to the Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Catalogue of Pictures and Water Colour Drawings by J. S. Sargent. R. A., auct. cat., Christie, Manson and Woods, Ltd. (London, England, 1925), no. 84

John Singer Sargent, His Own Work, exh. cat., Coe Kerr Gallery, Inc. (New York, NY, 1980), in checklist, unpaginated

Henry Lie, Straus Center for Conservation Annual Report 1994-1995 (1996), p. 45

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (New York, NY, 2003), pp. 462-63, cat. 209, ill.

Stephan Wolohojian, Ingres, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Renoir... La Collection Grenville L. Winthrop, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2003), pp. 474-475, cat. 208, ill.

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Virginia Anderson, and Kimberly Orcutt, ed., American Paintings at Harvard, Volume Two, Paintings, Drawings, Pastels and Stained Glass by Artists Born 1826-1856, Harvard University Art Museums/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA and New Haven, CT, 2008), p. 330-31, cat. no. 348, reproduced in color, p. 331

Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes, 1908-1913, Yale University Press (New Haven and London, 2014), no. 1586, repr., repr. p. 6 (detail), pp. 120, 179, 372

Exhibition History

The Persistence of Memory: Continuity and Change in American Cultures, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/29/1995 - 05/13/2001

A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, 03/15/2003 - 05/26/2003; National Gallery, London, 06/25/2003 - 09/14/2003; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/23/2003 - 01/25/2004

For Students of Art and Lovers of Beauty: Highlights from the Collection of Grenville L. Winthrop, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/16/2004

Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011

32Q: 2700 Impressionism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

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