John Singer Sargent Letter to Monet for Sale

See the letter from John Singer Sargent to Claude Monet that will be auctioned in September 2019.

John Singer Sargent and Claude Monet are two of the most widely-celebrated artists of the 20th century. A charming letter from Sargent to Monet appears in Heritage Auctions’ sale of the Maurice Car Collection of Arts and Sciences.

This letter reveals how even artists that are considered famous today did not always find their creative work to be easy or obvious. Despite their fame, even a noted artist sometimes asks for advice, showing the story behind the canvas!

What does the letter from Sargent to Monet say?

In his letter, John Singer Sargent writes to fellow artist Claude Monet circa 1885, asking for advice on what paint to use and how to refine his technique for a particular painting that he was working on. His comments shed light on his artistic process–including the challenges that he experienced before finishing what would become a famous painting–in an unguarded and honest way:

“I have some information I’d like from you which might make you burst out into laughter but please answer quickly. What sort of bright yellow can one mix with vert véronèse so that it does not darken before one’s eyes? For six weeks now I have been wrestling with a garden painting on which I am reworking the grassy background. Every day it seems to get dirty and darken and I am dissatisfied but cannot think of any other solution other than this bloody combination. I know that vert véronèse [illegible]. How do you do it? There are two little girls in a garden amongst flowers, lighting Japanese lanterns, at the hour they begin to do [illegible]. It has a charming effect that I sadly discovered late in the year because [illegible] flowers [illegible] lovely evenings. And on top of that I am deeply frustrated with the chemistry of it all! I would be thankful if you told me which yellows I could use if this request does not seem too dumb to you. My best to your wife and children….”

View the letter from John Singer Sargent to Claude Monet for sale.


What painting is Sargent referring to in his letter to Monet?

The painting in question is Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose from 1885-6, which is in the collection of the Tate Museum in London

john singer sargent lily painting
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose 1885-6 John Singer Sargent 1856-1925 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1887

Sargent was inspired by a day of boating on the River Thames in England, where he saw Chinese lanterns hanging among flowers He eventually painted this work in the Impressionist style for which Monet himself was so well-known.

How many letters did John Singer Sargent write to Claude Monet?

We have record of approximately 20 letters that Sargent wrote to Monet in the 1880s and 1890s, revealing a long friendship and professional relationship between these two noted artists. Fifteen of these letters can be found in the archives of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston as part of the John Singer Sargent Archive.

In addition to the letter from Sargent to Monet that Heritage Auctions is offering and the ones in the MFA archives, other letters that he wrote to various friends, patrons, sitters, and other artists can be found in digital format. View all letters from Sargent to Monet.

What kind of paintings did John Singer Sargent create?

John Singer Sargent was an American expatriate artist born in the 1850s. He was known for portraits and created approximately 900 oil paintings during his career as an artist, portraying some of the most famous names of his day. He was born in Italy to American parents and lived most of his life in Europe, where he gained fame and acclaim for his talent as a portraitist.

His paintings show both careful technical detail and some attributes of Impressionism, having studied at the prestigious and rigorous Ecole des Beaux Arts in France. He gained success as a commissioned painter during his lifetime and has continued to be popular even to present day. Many of his paintings are held by key museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Britain, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Musee d’Orsay, and more.

What is the value of John Singer Sargent letters sold at auction?

Handwritten and signed letters are typically the most valuable collectibles to feature a famous person’s autograph. The value at auction then depends somewhat on the subject matter, the popularity of the writer of the letter, and to whom the letters were addressed.

Letters to a famous recipient about a great subject can bring thousands of dollars, whereas a more pedestrian topic or recipient might sell for a more modest sum.

The letter from Sargent to Monet is expected to fetch thousands of dollars when it sells at auction on September 4th!

How much is an artist autographed letter worth?

Learn more about the value of an autograph, and what makes it valuable.

Where to Sell an Artist Signed Letter or Autograph

To receive a free auction evaluation for your autographed letter, consult with our experts. We are always accepting consignments for future auctions and would love to find out more about your collection. Request free appraisal for autographed letters.

Posted by Sarah Miller

Director of Numismatics, New York

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