With its expansive, five-part spring exhibition "An American Season," featuring the works of beloved artists Maurice Prendergast, John Singer Sargent, Alice Neel and Charles M. Russell, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston should satisfy anyone with even a passing interest in the fine arts. But one exhibition in particular, "Sargent and the Sea," will have both dilettantes and devotees clamoring for entry. As MFAH director Peter Marzio puts it, "Sargent built his formidable reputation on his now-legendary portraits of society figures and powerful personalities," but it was the sea that "first captivated the young artist." And when he says young, he means young: Sargent composed many of his sea-themed works in his late teens and early twenties, around 1880.
There are distant boats backlit by the sunset, a sailor reclining next to his beached boat, and villagers strolling across the sand with baskets for fish. Each of these sunny, idyllic scenes is painted in the same soft, pastel-infused tones of Sargent's portraits. As the complement exhibition, "Houston's Sargents," shows, Houstonians have a particular affection for the worldly American. The museum has rounded up 30 Sargents - mostly his more common portraiture - from local private collections. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Through May 9. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit www.mfah.org. Free to $7.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Feb. 14. Continues through May 23, 2010