John Singer Sargent and Carrara marble

I was on a train this summer rumbling past Carrara, Italy, and saw these huge blocks of marble.

Chunks of Carrara marble awaiting the next Michelangelo, John Singer Sargent or an American kitchen needing a countertop.

I couldn’t resist taking a couple of photos from the train window.

As I waited for telephone poles and an oncoming train to buzz by, I snapped a quick photo of the Carrara Italy sign from my train window.

Seeing these awkwardly stacked massive cubes of marble and knowing that this is same place where Michelangelo got his chunk of marble for David, and where John Singer Sargent painted his watercolors of quarry workers, made these images very exciting for me.

Many people are not aware of the watercolor paintings John
Singer Sargent did in Carrara during his time in Italy

John Singer Sargent, Carrara: Quarry 1. 1911. (MFA Accession number: 12.234.) Watercolor over graphite pencil, with wax resist on paper. From the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Not currently on view.

A number of these fantastic paintings by Sargent are searchable and viewable on the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, website. And of course, the new American Wing is now open at the MFA, with many of Sargent’s breathtaking watercolors and oil portraits in a new gallery celebrating this remarkable American artist.

Also, Sargent’s sketchbooks (!) and drawings are searchable, viewable, and can be downloaded through the “light box” function on the Harvard Art Museums website. A place to start is, “Under Cover: Artists’ Sketchbooks.” At this online display from the exhibition, there are sketchbooks from other artists too. Since I am an artist, and someone who has taught drawing, seeing these sketchbooks brings a wave of pleasure to me. Just glancing through the sketchbooks evokes the ease with which the artist captured the curve of a neck or the tension in a torso. It also allows us to see how the artist changes his mind as he plans a finished piece of art. Sketchbooks reveal so much of the thinking and work behind the artwork!

Thinking of sketching and creating a realistic portrayal of a scene… I suggest you look back at Sargent’s Carrara and Quarry paintings and see how Sargent plays with the sense of scale. Muscular workers are presented as tiny people–a couple of brushstrokes, really– dwarfed by the gigantic boulders of marble. The importance of scale relates to my previous post about the new Lego store at Mall of America and its playfulness with the sense of scale.


About artinthecenter

I am a lifelong artist having studied painting, photography, drawing, and other media, in schools in the US and Italy. I won my first art contest when I was five--at a museum-- and my point of view tends to be as a five-year-old creative child embracing life. Creativity is a core response for me. How can we bring the infinite knowledge and excitement held by our museums and academics into the heart and minds of everyone? There is so much to share. Let’s ask questions, and discuss. Follow me on twitter @janemmason. Check out all sort of artsy information at: +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ This policy is valid from 1 January 2016 This is a personal, educational, blog written and edited by me, Jane M. Mason. For questions about this blog, please contact: Sincere effort has been exerted to cite, recognize, and thank all sources of content, including images, quotations or concepts that are not those of Watching Paint Dry LLC (WPDLLC), including Jane M. Mason. If you feel we have included something in this blog that has not been accurately noted or recognized to be from a source other than the intellectual property of WPDLLC, please let me know and I will adjust the citation when presented with specific citation sources and details. As an artist and writer, a core principal of mine is to respect and recognize intellectual content of others. If you are interested in using concepts, photos or other intellectual property from this blog, please contact, Rights Manager, Danielle Raub at This blog does not contain any content that is likely to present a conflict of interest, although opposing points of view, as long as they are respectful, are welcome. This blog does not accept cash or paid topic insertions. However, we will consider accepting and keeping free products, services, travel, event tickets, and other forms of compensation from companies and organizations. The compensation received will not influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All advertising is in the form of advertisements generated by a third party ad network. Those advertisements will be identified as paid advertisements. The owner of this blog, WPDLLC, is not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics within the content of this blog. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are those of Jane M. Mason or the associates of WPDLLC. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. This policy has been adapted from For your own policy, go to

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