Back to homepage

Artist Letters: John Singer Sargent

We’ve just returned from Archives with more epistolary treasures. This latest find includes correspondence between American painter John Singer Sargent and the Fogg Museum’s former associate director Paul Sachs.

In 1922, Sargent was working on a commission to create two paintings for Harvard University’s Widener Library that honored the university’s fallen soldiers from World War I. These murals (Death and Victory and Entering the War [or, Coming of the Americans]), which now flank the library’s main staircase, are not the only goods that Sargent turned over to the university that year: he also gave the Fogg Museum a number of his drawing studies for this commission, hoping that they would be of interest to students.

The correspondence between Sargent and Sachs relate to this important gift. As an academic art institution, we have long used our collections for teaching, research, and learning—exactly what John Singer Sargent intended his drawings would be used for, and what our new facility is designed to better facilitate.

Speaking of studying, can you decipher Sargent’s handwriting? 

Go to Flickr to see larger images of the letters, and let us know what you think below.


  • 01 Letter, John Singer Sargent to Paul Sachs, November 25, 1922. Courtesy Harvard Art Museums Archives.
  • 02 Letter, Paul Sachs to John Singer Sargent, November 28, 1922. Courtesy Harvard Art Museums Archives.