ASR Art ~~ Sargent and Spain: A Celebration at SF’s Legion of Honor

By George Maguire

San Francisco’s gorgeous Legion of Honor Museum is hosting a stunning exhibition of American painter John Singer Sargent ((1856-1925).

Sargent is recognized as the great portrait painter of his generation. His work exemplifies the lap of luxury elite of the Edwardian era. His vast portraiture work includes Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Claude Monet, actress Ellen Terry, and John D. Rockefeller.

John Singer Sargent. Photo: Wikipedia.

Sargent’s admiration for the great Spanish painters Goya, Velazquez and El Greco is evident in his ever changing early styles as he came into his own as an artist. Sargent’s oeuvre consisted of over 900 oils, some 2,000 exquisite watercolors and numerous sketches and studies and never before presented photographs, many seen here at this exhibit.

John Singer Sargent, “Majorcan Fisherman,” 1908, oil on canvas.

Although born of American parents, he spent the majority of his life in Europe. His travels took him to Venice, Corfu, the Middle East, Montana, Maine, Florida, and Spain, the concentration of this exhibition. Sargent visited Spain seven times from 1879-1912. His detailed breadth of work brings to life these excursions and his fascination with Spanish culture.

“Prepare to be flabbergasted!” — The Washington Post

Organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the rare exhibition is showcased in this sole West Coast stop.

John Singer Sargent, La Carmencita, ca. 1890

To view Sargent’s brush strokes of the grand dancer Carmencita (1890) is in itself reason enough to arrange a trip. It is as if the dresses swirl into our eyes with delicate precision. One can feel her dancing for us. His vast collection of male nudes and sailors sealed his reputation as a provocateur and simultaneously, a not-so-open homosexual.

What fascinates the viewer are the eyes of his subjects and our own imagination as they look directly at us – alluring, inviting…questioning?

This exhibition at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum runs through May 14, 2023, offering a vast look at one of America’s most prodigious artists. While there, visit Gallery 7 and view the recent acquisition of the painting by Canaletto, Venice, the Grand Canal looking east with Santa Maria della Salute. This beautiful work hung in Gordon and Ann Getty’s house before the vast Getty collection was auctioned off, and was gifted to the museum by Diane “Dede” Wilsey.

Venice, the Grand Canal Looking East towards the Bacino. By Canaletto.

I was speaking recently with renowned sculptor Roger Arvid Anderson about the museums here in San Francisco. He said that we in San Francisco are fortunate to have such varieties of touring shows and exhibitions which give us access to the finest, whether it is Tut or Ansel Adams.

Or John Singer Sargent. Don’t miss it!

  • Event: John Singer Sargent at the Legion of Honor Museum
  • Address: 100 34th Street (at Clement) San Francisco, 94121.
  • Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9:30-5:15 (Dark Monday.)
  • Tickets: Adults $15.00, Seniors (65+) $12.00, Students $6.00, Members free.
  • Website:
  • Information: (415) 750-3600
  • Extras: On-site Café open until 3:30.


ASR Contributing Writer George Maguire is a San Francisco based actor and director. and a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. He is a Professor Emeritus of Solano College. Contact: