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Peter Harrison Asleep

Peter Harrison Asleep
inscribed and signed ‘To my Comaniac/John S. Sargent’ (lower left)
watercolor and pencil on paper
12 x 18 in. (30.5 x 45.7 cm.)
Executed circa 1905.
The artist.
Mrs. Lawrence A. Harrison, wife of the sitter, gift from the above.
Sylvia Harrison, daughter of the above, by descent, 1939.
Ben Harrison, cousin of the above, bequeathed from the above, 1989.
Adelson Galleries, New York, 2009.
Private collection, acquired from the above, 2010.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2013.
Illustrations of the Sargent Exhibition Royal Academy 1926, London, 1926, p. 44.
W.H. Downes, John S. Sargent: His Life and Work, London, 1926, p. 343.
Mrs. J. Comyns Carr’s Reminiscences, p. 188, illustrated.
W. Adelson, et al., Sargent Abroad: Figures and Landscapes, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1997, p. 83, pl. 70, illustrated.
A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exhibition catalogue, New York, p. 461, no. 3.
T. Stebbins, American Paintings at Harvard, vol. 2, New Haven, Connecticut, 2008, p. 330.
R. Ormond, E. Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes, 1900-1907: The Complete Paintings, vol. VII, New Haven, Connecticut, 2012, pp. 27, 63, 87, 89, 93-97, 99, 105n5, 107, 338, no. 1225, illustrated.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Exhibition of Works by the Late John S. Sargent, R.A., January 14-March 13, 1926, p. 19, no. 84 (as L.A. Harrison, Esq.,)
Paris, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Sargent/Sorolla, February 14-May 13, 2007, pp. 231, 248, 308, no. 99, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

A scene most likely executed inside an inn or hotel within the Italian Alpine village of Giomein, Peter Harrison Asleep depicts the English painter Lawrence Alexander “Peter” Harrison (1866 -1937), who has dozed off while reading a book. Harrison and his wife Alma Strettell were longtime friends of Sargent’s, and periodically joined him during the artist’s summer travels including the sojourn to the Italian Alps in the summer of 1905. Sargent had affectionately dubbed Alma a “Comaniac” in reference to their shared love of Wagner’s music, and the present example is dedicated to her with this nickname.

In this freely painted watercolor, Sargent composes the work with utmost casualness, as if he had just tumbled upon the scene, which very likely he had. Harrison has drifted off while reading, fully clothed, shoes and all, his arm hanging over the side of the bed. The mood is one of quiet and casual familiarity, evocative of the relaxed camaraderie that characterized the summer travels of the artist and his friends.

“The water-colour of him lying on his bed is a deft performance. It captures the rumpled figure of the artist’s friend caught off-guard, knee raised, of course, arm listlessly hanging over the side, head pressed into an enormous pillow. The character of the room and the great subtlety and delicacy… Related to Peter Harrison Asleep are the water-colour Man Reading [circa 1905, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts], an oil sketch of almost the same title [circa 1904-07, Reading Public Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania], In Switzerland [circa 1905, Brooklyn Museum, New York] and the drawing Sleeping Man [circa 1905, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York].” (R. Ormond, E. Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes, 1900-1907: The Complete Paintings, vol. VII, New Haven, Connecticut, 2012, pp. 93-94.
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