Reference: Fishing for Oysters at Cançale

Fishing for Oysters at Cançale

John Singer Sargent, Fishing for Oysters at Cançale (1878), oil on canvas, 41 x 61 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Having just finished his studies at revered art school École des Beaux-Arts, a 21-year-old John Singer Sargent traveled from Paris to the coastal town of Brittany to paint for the summer. The strict lines and dull hues of the city gave way to the untethered shuffle and glow of the ocean and the land that meets it. The malleable nature of his new environs immediately affected his approach, and the result was Fishing for Oysters at Cançale, completed in the Impressionist style in 1878. A mere six years later, Sargent finished what would become his most famous painting, Portrait of Madame X, a spectacle of unabashed realism informed by time spent in Madrid studying the meticulous brush strokes of legendary Spanish painter Diego Velázquez. These represent only two examples of his many stylistic transformations, born out of a continuing and relentless fascination with the shifting world around him. 

An American born in Italy to two nomadic artisans, Sargent was raised to be an altruistic student of nature, immersing himself in the eccentricities of various cities around the world. Sargent's was an evolving and open-minded approach — and a useful reminder that an epiphany is always just around the corner, should one allow one's self to find it.