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. Check out all sort of artsy information at: and purchase my artwork 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 made to cite, recognize, and thank all sources of content, including images. If you feel we have included something in this blog that has not been accurately noted or recognized, please let me know and I will adjust the citation when presented with details. If you are interested in using intellectual property from this blog, please contact This blog does not accept cash or paid topic insertions. However, we will consider accepting free products and other forms of compensation. The compensation received will not influence content. All advertising is in the form of advertisements generated by a third party ad network. We do not have control over the products advertised. The views and opinions expressed are those of Jane M. Mason or the associates of WPD LLC. We only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, other representation should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. This policy has been adapted from For your own policy, go to

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