It's a 'summer of Sargent' in Boston

Boston is gearing up for a Sargent summer.

Not one, not two, but four cultural institutions in the Boston area are celebrating the work of artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). The event is like a giant mural of the great portraitist's works.

The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) is showcasing the most comprehensive Sargent exhibition ever, including 140 of his most esteemed oils, watercolors, and studies for murals - some of which have never been on display. It's a collaboration between the Tate Gallery, London; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the MFA.

For the occasion, the MFA has also restored the Sargent murals and sculptures that adorn the museum's rotunda and grand stairway.

Elsewhere around Boston:

*"Sargent: The Late Landscapes" is at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

*"Sargent in the Studio: Drawings, Sketchbooks, and Oil Sketches," is at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University. His murals can also be viewed at Harvard's Widener Library.

*"Sargent in Context," at the Boston Public Library, features drawings and memorabilia. The monumental Sargent murals that decorate the library are also showcased.

"Boston is really rich with Sargents," says MFA spokeswoman Kelly Gifford. "We had him on our schedule five years ago, and everybody started talking around town. It just seemed like a natural way to celebrate summer and Sargent."

It's fitting to have such a grand retrospective in the city that Sargent considered his American home. He had his first solo show here in 1888, maintained a studio in the South End, and painted many prominent Bostonians, including arts patron Isabella Stewart Gardner and Henry Lee Higginson, the founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

"This exhibition ... is an incredible chance to see the breadth and depth of this artist's work," says Malcolm Rogers, the director of the MFA.

*'John Singer Sargent' is at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, June 27 to Sept. 26. His murals at the Boston Public Library and the Widener Library at Harvard may be viewed year round.

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