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John Singer Sargent

Born: 1856, Florence, Italy
Died: 1925, London, England

Dennis Miller Bunker Painting at Calcot
1888

Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite
Image: 27 x 25 1/4 in. (68.6 x 64.1 cm)
Frame: 34 5/8 x 32 3/4 x 2 1/4 in. (87.9 x 83.2 x 5.7 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.130
Signed: Lower right: John S. Sargent
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

John Singer Sargent’s Dennis Miller Bunker Painting at Calcot shows a painter at work. His low portable easel, no doubt concealing a stool for him to sit on, is set up on the bank of a stream where a seated woman, her back to her companion, is absorbed in reading. Dressed in the informal white attire of summertime, the artist has stepped back from his canvas to gaze appraisingly at the result of his efforts, his right hand thrust into his trouser pocket while he holds his palette in his left. His painting, turned from the viewer, might look much like Sargent’s image: a view of the grassy bank and stream overshadowed by verdant willows, under a bright midday sky. Sargent painted this scene in the rapidly applied distinct strokes of strong color typical of impressionism. The surface of his painting, like the image it presents, is a tactile record of the open-air painting process that progressive American artists, following the example of such French impressionist painters as Claude Monet (1840–1926), were beginning to use in the 1880s.

Sargent painted this work at rural Calcot Mill, about an hour’s train ride west from London, in the summer of 1888. There, the willow-draped banks of the Kennet, a small estuary of the Thames River, offered a setting reminiscent of the Epte River and its tributaries near the village of Giverny, France, home of Sargent’s friend Monet. The previous winter, in his native Boston, he had formed a close friendship with Dennis Miller Bunker, whom he invited to stay with him in the English countryside. At Calcot, the two artists experimented with painting outdoors, working directly on the canvas to capture transient effects of natural light and color. On their painting excursions they were often accompanied by Sargent’s younger sister Violet, the woman depicted here, with whom Bunker may have formed a romantic attachment. For Sargent, the dense vegetation of the riverbank proved an ideal vehicle for broken brushwork and dappled light effects. In portraying them under the influence of Monet, he produced the most distinctly impressionist works of his career.

Dennis Miller Bunker Painting at Calcot is reminiscent of Sargent’s Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood (c.1885; Tate Gallery, London). In this work, however, Sargent shows Bunker not in the act of applying paint to canvas but pausing and considering. His pose vividly captures the frustrations Bunker reported in correspondence home as he attempted to abandon the careful, drawing-based academic studio technique he later demonstrated in such works as The Mirror (TF 1999.22). Indeed, nothing survives from Bunker’s summer work at Calcot, perhaps because he destroyed what he considered unsatisfactory results. His stay with Sargent marked a turning point in the younger artist’s aesthetic, however. The following summer, working in Medfield, Massachusetts, Bunker painted a series of fully impressionist landscapes that are considered among the most important such works in American art.

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Provenance

The artist
Mrs. Charles A. Platt, Windsor, Vermont, 1888 (widow of Dennis Miller Bunker)
The Milch Galleries, 1943
David Findlay, 1943
Vernon West, 1951
Vose Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts, 1951
Scott & Fowles, New York, 1953
Mrs. William C. Breed, 1953
Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, New York, October 16, 1977
Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, (agent), Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1980
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1999

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Exhibition History

American Forerunners, San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, California, October 1936 (as The Artist).

Dennis Miller Bunker: Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, October 5–31, 1943 (as Dennis Bunker Painting). [exh. cat.]

American Painting From the Collection of Daniel J. Terra, Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania (organizer). Venue: Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, June 5–July 17, 1977 (as Sketch of D. Bunker and Violet Sargent). [exh. cat.]

Dennis Miller Bunker Rediscovered, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut (organizer). Venue: New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut, April 1–May 7, 1978. [exh. cat.]

American Impressionism, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington (organizer). Venues: Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, January 3–March 2, 1980; Frederick S. Wight Gallery, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, March 9–May 4, 1980; Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois, May 16–June 22, 1980; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Massachusetts, July 1–August 31, 1980. [exh. cat.]

Masterworks in American Art from the Daniel J. Terra Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois, April 27–September 12, 1985.

Sargent at Broadway: The Impressionist Years, Coe Kerr Gallery, New York, New York (organizer). Venue: Coe Kerr Gallery, New York, New York, May 2–June 14, 1986. [exh. cat.]

John Singer Sargent, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York (organizer). Venues: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York, October 7, 1986–January 4, 1987; The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, February 7–April 19, 1987. [exh. cat.]

A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 21–June 21, 1987. [exh. cat.]

Selections from the Permanent Collection: Americans at Home and Abroad, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 6–29, 1987.

1888: Frederick Layton and His World, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (organizer). Venue: Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, April 8–August 28, 1988. [exh. cat.]

American Impressionism, Fondazione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Villa Favorita, Lugano-Castagnola, Switzerland (organizer). Venue: Fondazione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Villa Favorita, Lugano-Castagnola, Switzerland, July 22–October 28, 1990. [exh. cat.]

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 1991.

Dennis Miller Bunker and His Circle, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Massachusetts in collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts (organizer). Venue: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Massachusetts, January 13–June 4, 1995. [exh. cat.]

Collection Cameo companion piece, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, February 1996.

Giverny: une impression américaine (Giverny, An American Impression), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–November 1, 1998.

Ville et campagne: les artistes américains, 1870–1920 (The City and the Country: American Perspectives, 1870–1920) Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–November 1, 1999; Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, December 10, 1999–May 7, 2000 (in modified form). [exh. cat.]

On Process: Studio Themes, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, January 13–March 4, 2001.

Selections from the Permanent Collection: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 10–July 1, 2001.

D'une colonie à une collection: le Musée d'Art Américain Giverny fête ses dix ans (From a Colony to a Collection: Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Musée d'Art Américain Giverny), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, March 30–June 16, 2002.

A Place on the Avenue: Terra Museum of American Art Celebrates 15 Years in Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 16, 2002–February 16, 2003 (on exhibit extended run: November 2, 2002–March 2, 2003).

The People Work: American Perspectives, 1840–1940 (Le Travail à l'oeuvre: les artistes américains 1840–1940), Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 15–May 25, 2003; Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, June 8–August 17, 2003. [exh. cat.]

Copley to Cassatt: Masterworks from the Terra Collection, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut and Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut, September 5–December 7, 2003.

Visages de l'Amérique: de George Washington à Marilyn Monroe (Faces of America: From George Washington to Marilyn Monroe), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2004. [exh. cat.]

Impressionism Abroad: Boston and French Painting, Royal Academy of Art, London, England (organizer). Venues: Royal Academy of Arts, London, England, July 2–September 11, 2005. [exh. cat.]

French Impressionism and Boston: Masterworks from the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts (organizers), Venues: Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL, November 19, 2005–March 5, 2006.

America! Storie di pittura dal nuovo mondo, Linea d'ombra, Treviso, Italy (organizer). Venue: Museo di Santa Giulia, Brescia, Italy, November 24, 2007–May 4, 2008. [exh. cat.]

Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection,The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, December 2010-September 2013.

America: Painting a Nation, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia (organizers). Venue: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, November 9, 2013–February 8, 2014. [exh. cat]

American Impressionism: a New Vision, 1880–1900 (L'Impressionnisme et les Américains/ Impresionismo Americano (French & Spanish titles), Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, Giverny, France and the Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, United Kingdom and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain (organizers). Venues: Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, Giverny, France, March 28–June 29, 2014; Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, July 19–October 19, 2014; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain, November 4, 2014–February 1, 2015. [exh. cat.]

Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends, National Portrait Gallery, London, United Kingdom and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York (Organizers). Venues: National Portrait Gallery, London, United Kingdom, February 5–May 25, 2015; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, June 28–October 4, 2015. [exh. cat.]

"Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection," The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, October 2015–present.

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Published References

Dennis Miller Bunker: Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings. (exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts). Boston, Massachusetts: Museum of Fine Arts, 1943. No. 35, p. 10 (checklist); ill. no. 35 (as Dennis Miller Bunker Painting).

Gammell, R. H. Ives. Dennis Miller Bunker. New York: Coward-McCann, 1953. Ill. facing p. 26 (black & white as Bunker Sketching at Calcott).

McKibbin, David. Sargent's Boston, with an Essay a Biographical Summary & A Complete Checklist of Sargent's Portraits. (exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts). Boston, Massachusetts: Museum of Fine Arts, 1956. Text p. 86.

Art News 73 (September 1974): 15. Ill. p. 15.

Driscoll, John Paul. American Paintings from the Collection of Daniel J. Terra. (exh. cat., Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University). University Park, Pennsylvania: Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, 1977. Ill. (black & white as Sketch of D. Bunker and Violet Sargent).

Ferguson, Charles B. Dennis Miller Bunker Rediscovered (1861–1890). (exh. cat., New Britain Museum of American Art). New Britain, Connecticut: New Britain Museum of American Art, 1978. Text pp. 14, 24 (checklist); ill. no. 26, p. 16 (black & white).

Gerdts, William H. American Impressionism. (exh. cat., Henry Art Gallery). Seattle, Washington: Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, 1980. Text p. 138 (checklist); ill. p. 36 (color).

Kirshner, Judith Russi. "The Terra Collection." United: The Magazine of the Friendly Skies (December 1982): 52–59. Ill. pp. 56–57 (color).

Ratcliff, Carter. John Singer Sargent. New York: Abbeville Press, Publishers, 1982. Pl. 155, p. 111 (color).

Sokol, David M. "The Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois." The Magazine Antiques 126:5 (November 1984): 1156–69. Pl. XV, p. 1162 (color).

Olson, Stanley, Warren Adelson, and Richard Ormond. Sargent at Broadway: The Impressionist Years. New York: Universe/Coe Kerr Gallery, 1986. Text p. 51; pl. XXXIII, p. 107 (color).

Olsen, Stanley et al. John Singer Sargent. (exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art). New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1986. Text pp. 123–24; 131, 287 (checklist); ill. p. 128 (color).

Atkinson, D. Scott et al. A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art. Edited by Terry A. Neff. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1987. Pl. T-89, p. 198 (color).

Mundy, James et al. 1888: Frederic Layton and His World. (exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Museum). Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1988. Text p. 76; ill. p. 77 (color).

Broude, Norma, ed. World Impressionism: The International Movement, 1860–1920. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1990. Text p. 42; pl. 39, p. 43 (black & white).

Gerdts, William. American Impressionism. (exh. cat., Villa Favorita, Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation, Lugano-Castagnola). Eidolon, Switzerland: Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation, 1990. Text p. 32; ill. p. 33 (color).

Dennis Miller Bunker Painting at Calcot, John Singer Sargent, Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 1991. Ill. (black & white).

Jennings, Kate F. John Singer Sargent. New York: Crescent Books, 1991. Ill. p. 40 (color).

Gerdts, William H. et al. Lasting Impressions: American Painters in France, 1865–1915. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1992. Text p. 214; fig. 132, p. 214 (black & white).

Gerdts, William H. et al. Impressions de toujours: les peintres américains en France, 1865–1915. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1992. Text p. 214; fig. 132, p. 214 (black & white).

Hirshler, Erica E. "Dennis Miller Bunker and His Circle of Friends." The Magazine Antiques 147:1 (January 1995): 184-93. Text p. 188; pl. III, p. 186 (color).

Hirshler, Erica E. Dennis Miller Bunker and His Circle. (exh. cat., Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum). Boston, Massachusetts: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1995. Text cat. no. 2, p. 18; cat. no. 2, p. 19 (color).

The Age of Elegance: The Paintings of John Singer Sargent. London, England: Phaidon Press Limited, 1996. Ill. (color).

American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture. Sotheby's Catalogue (May 24, 2000). Text pp. 26–29; fig. 1, p. 28 (color).

Esten, John. Sargent: Painting Out-Of-Doors. New York: Universe Publishing, 2000. Text p. 30; ill. p. 31 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. An American Point of View: The Daniel J. Terra Collection. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text p. 86; ill. p. 86 (black & white).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. Un regard transatlantique. La collection d'art américain de Daniel J. Terra. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text p. 86; ill. p. 86 (black & white).

Kennedy, Elizabeth and Sophie Lévy. Faces of America: Portraits of the Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, 1770–1940. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2004. Text pp. 14, 15, 33 (checklist); ill. p. 48 (color).

Kennedy, Elizabeth and Sophie Lévy. Visages de l'Amérique: le portrait dans la collection de la Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1770–1940. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2004. Text pp. 14, 15, 33 (checklist); ill. p. 48 (color).

Impressionism Abroad: Boston and French Painting (exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts). London, England: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005. Text p.121; ill. opposite p. 17 (color, detail), p. 94 (color), p. 121 (color).

Lévy, Sophie, et al. Twarze Ameryki: Portrety z kolekcji Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940 (Faces of America: Portraits from the collection of the Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940). (exh. cat. International Cultural Center). Cracow, Poland: International Cultural Center, 2006. Text pp.20–21; ill. p. 20, fig. 2 (color).

Goldin, Marco. America! Storie di pittura dal Nuovo Mondo. (exh. cat., Museo di Santa Giulia, Brescia, Italy). Treviso, Italy: Linea d'ombra Libri, 2007. Text pp. 332, 492 (checklist); ill. cat. no. 207, table of contents (color detail), pp. 374-5 (color detail), 410 (color), 492 (black & white as Dennis Miller Bunker mentre dipinge a Calcot).

Goldin, Marco ed. America! Storie di pittura dal Nuovo Mondo. (exh. cat., Museo di Santa Giulia, Brescia, Italy). Treviso, Italy: Linea d'ombra Libri, 2007. (English version). Text p. 134.

Ormond, Richard and Elaine Kilmurray. John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes, 1883-1899, Complete Paintings, Volume V. New Haven, Connecticut and London, Great Britain: Yale University Press, 2010. Text pp. 160-162, 348; cat. no. 890, p. 161 (color).

America: Painting a Nation. (exh. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the National Museum of Korea, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Terra Foundation for American Art). Sydney, Australia: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2013. Text p. 148; ill. cat. no. 45, p. 149 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. American Impressionism: A New Vision 1880-1900. (exh. cat., Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, National Galleries of Scotland, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza). Giverny, France: Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, 2014. (English, French and Spanish versions). Ill. p. 73 (color).

Ormond, Richard with Elaine Kilmurray. Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends. (exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery and The Metropolitan Museum of Art). London, Great Britain: National Portrait Gallery Publications, 2015. Text pp. 93,116, 176; ill. cat. no. 39, p. 114 (color).

Madsen, Annelise K. John Singer Sargent and Chicago’s Gilded Age. (exh. cat, Art Institute of Chicago). Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 2018, distributed by Yale University Press. Text p. 129; ill. p. 128 (color).

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