A Greek Orthodox priest awaits an evening service on Corfu. Sargent painted 'Vespers' there on a visit in the autumn of 1909. As he grew older Sargent abandoned the showy society portraits of his youth. He preferred intimate landscapes and townscapes, usually in watercolour.The technique of this oil painting imitates watercolour methods. The composition is informal, with the priest placed in a corner, his figure cut off below his waist. The priest was added last, over the completed scene. Sargent exhibited and sold this painting at London’s Royal Academy the following summer.


  • Title: Vespers
  • Creator: John Singer Sargent
  • Date Created: 1909
  • tag / style: John Singer Sargent; landscape; Corfu; Greek Orthodox Priest; Vespers; atmospheric; hat; columns; architecture
  • Physical Dimensions: w915 x h710 cm (Without frame)
  • Location, painted there: Corfu
  • Artwork History: ‘Vespers’ was owned by Sir Thomas Brock between 1910-1928
  • Artist biographical information: John Singer Sargent was born in Florence to American parents who had left Philadelphia to work and travel in Europe. Sargent grew up speaking four languages and was an excellent pianist with a passion for art and architecture. In 1874 he went to Paris to study art in the studio of Emile Carolus–Duran, who taught his students to paint objects and people under faithfully recorded conditions of light and atmosphere and to lay the paint stroke by stroke without reworking. Sargent also enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux–Arts, the official school of art in Paris. Sargent's early works were inspired by his travels to different parts of Europe, but he later decided to concentrate on portraits of famous people, mainly women. Sargent moved from Paris to London in 1886. He exhibited 'Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose' (1885–6, Tate Britain) at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1887. The painting proved extremely popular with the British public and was immediately purchased by the nation. However he did not receive many commissions for portraits in England, his main clients being people from his own small social circle. To compensate for his lack of portrait commissions Sargent executed a great number of landscapes during the second half of the 1880s. Sargent's career improved after his trips to America in 1887-8 and 1889-90. On his second trip, and in the course of less than nine months, Sargent completed over 40 portraits. He excelled in portraits of lady sitters, some the wives of powerful bankers or politicians. At the age of 38 Sargent was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in London, and in 1897 a Royal Academician. Eventually he gave up portrait painting in 1907 despite his enormous success and demand for new work.
  • Additional artwork information: A C R Carter wrote of this landscape, exhibited by Sargent at the 1910 Royal Academy exhibition: “With the temporary secession of Mr Sargent from portraiture to landscape the Academy gains in curiosity what it loses in strength. Manifestly brilliant studies of sunlight, these exercises do not yet take us far on the road which the painter has doubtless planned for himself in the future”. To learn more about this painting and the Walker Art Gallery’s 20th-century collections, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/collections/20c/ To learn about ‘On His Holidays’, another painting by Sargent in the collection of National Museums Liverpool (Lady Lever Art Gallery), which was the subject of an ‘Artwork Highlight’ talk in 2004, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/picture-of-month/displayPicture.asp?id=166&venue=7
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Presented by George Audley in 1928

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