The Olive Grove

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925)

Currently on View in K212
Image Licensing

Occupying over half the picture plane, the olive trees’ majestic gray foliage creates a poetic calm over the spiraling tree trunks and activity of the people below. Sargent’s energetic, Impressionist brushstrokes have been highlighted by a recent cleaning of the painting.

Sargent is largely remembered for interiors and figure painting. In the early 20th century the artist turned increasingly to landscape painting, touring the Alps and the Mediterranean to escape the constant demands of wealthy clients seeking portraits.

Previously thought to depict a picnic, The Olive Grove shows villagers gathering olives and was probably painted on the Greek isle of Corfu during one of Sargent’s trips to the Mediterranean.

John Singer Sargent and Landscape Painting

John Singer Sargent is best known as a portraitist of high-society figures. However, he tired of this practice in 1907. He even complained that he had to talk to his clients while they sat, feigning interest in their conversation. Instead, Sargent turned to landscape painting. He traveled extensively, visiting the Mediterranean islands, the Alps, and Italy. These trips yielded numerous landscape studies.

The Olive Grove, probably set on the Greek isle of Corfu, is an impressionistic record of a picnic during one of Sargent’s journeys. The figures in the landscape are most likely his traveling companions. Painting en plein air was part of Sargent’s methodology, perhaps due to the pervasive influence of Impressionism, which he encountered in 1870s Paris.

Swinglehurst, Edmund and John Singer Sargent. John Singer Sargent. California: Thunder Bay Press, 2001.

Object Information

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925)
creation date
about 1910
oil on canvas
22-1/8 x 28-3/4 in.
31 x 37-3/4 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
Gift of Hirschl and Adler Galleries, New York
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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