John Singer Sargent's Oyster Gatherers of Cancale (Sketch)
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Oyster Gatherers of Cancale 
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC
96.8 x 123.2 cm (31 1/8 x 48 1/2 in.) 

Women with Baskets 
Studies -  2 - for Oyster Gatherers of Cancale 

Oyster Gatherers of Cancale Study

Woman Carrying Basket, for "Oyster Gatherers of Cancale"

Child (study for Oyster Gatherers) 

Woman with Basket
c. 1875–78

L. van Hooren 

Copy After Oyster Gatherers  
S A Forbes 

Copy After Oyster Gatherers  
V. D. Stanley-Alder

The Shrimp Gatherers after John Singer Sargent



Oyster Gatherers of Cancale (Sketch) 
Also titled 
Fishing for Oysters at Cancale 
John Singer Sargent -- American painter 
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Oil on canvas
41 x 61 cm (16 1/8 x 24 in)
Gift of Miss Mary Appleton

Jpg: MFACarol Gerten's Fine Art

This painting, a smaller version of the one at the Corcoran Gallery [thumbnail], may have been an oil study. It differs slightly from from the one at the Corcoran.


The artist; to Samuel Colman, Newport, R.I., and New York, by 1880; to Susan Travers, Newport, R.I., by January 1903; to Mary Appleton, Newport, R.I., New York, and Boston, December 1904 (bequest of Susan Travers); to MFA, 1935, gift of Mary Appleton.

I originally had the sketch incorrectly marked. 

From: Wonsug Jung

Hi, Nat.

I have found in your thumbnail gallery page 1, 'Oyster Gatherers of Cancale' is wrongly referred to as a collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

But this image is a sketch version (you can tell it quickly by the hair color of the boy on the right side) and belongs to the MFA.

From: Natasha

Thanks Wonsug. I myself had noticed a discrepancy and that there are two paintings of this, but I didn't know the other was at the BMFA. I always have seen the one at the Corcoran Gallery in books. You say this is a sketch? but it looks like a full finished version to me, at least in the image here. It's interesting to note the people in the background frame right are different as well between the two pictures.

So if this is the Sketch version, when was it painted and what's its size, do you know?

The fun thing about this is there are a million tiny little questions like this. 

From: Wonsug Jung

Dear Natasha,

I think I might have used the word 'sketch' too roughly, and it really looks like a full finished painting, but both Ratcliff's book and the retrospective catalogue refers to it as a sketch.

It was painted in the same year as the final version, and in the catalogue it is entitled 'Fishing for Oysters at Cancale', the size of which is 41 x 61 cm(16 1/8 x 24 in). In Ratcliff's book its title is the same with the final version and I don't remember what it was entitled in the BMFA where it hangs.

There is also a discrepancy regarding the size of the Washington's version between Ratcliff's and the catalogue. (31 x 48 1/2 vs 38 1/8 x 48 1/2)

From: Natasha

Calling it a "'sketch' or a "study" would be appropriate and I think the size of the paintings is the most telling here. This painting is much smaller than the final version (96.8 x 123.2 cm (31 1/8 x 48 1/2 in.). I have seen Sargent do oil "sketches" before with other major paintings in the early years. At the Nelson Atkins Art Gallery in Kansas City, there is a smaller "study" of Spanish Dance (1883) (n/a) and it is appropriately titled Spanish Dance study (1883) (n/a).

Regarding Ratcliff's book. It's a wonderful book at getting an overview of Sargent's life and work but I am finding countless little inaccuracies that aren't that significant for the "big picture" but still don't jive with most "established" writings. If there is any discrepancy with anything, I think you should hold the Ratcliff book as suspect.

From: Jay Carlson
son _ of


Just how many oil paintings of oyster gatherers are there and where can I find color photos of them? I know he had done a few oil sketches and I have seen them some where but cannot remember where.

From: Natasha

That's a good question, but I only remember seeing this one and the finished painting which makes a total of two oils and only one oil-sketch. You might try Carter Ratcliff's book, look under Books

From: Jay Carlson
op. cit.

Oyster Gatherers of Cancale StudyThank you very much for replying so quickly.  The sketches I am talking about are for instance, a woman standing alone. I have seen some of these but cannot remember where. If you don't know thats fine. 

[Thumbnail and image added later]

From: Natasha

So I wonder are those close-ups of this study or are they separate studies -- anyone?

From: Wonsug Jung

Regarding Jay Carlson's question, Ratcliff's book has three B/W plates of figure study for the Oyster Gatherers of Cancale. Two are female studies and one is male study, and they are in Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois. As far as I know, Ratcliff's is the only book which contains these plates, I haven't checked Fairbrother's yet, though. Richard Ormond's book published in 1970 has plate of another oil study of the whole scene (8 3/4 X 11 1/2 inches and whose location is unknown).

He also comments about an oil study for one of the oyster gatherers, which was in the collection of Ralph Curtis' and reproduced in Art Quarterly, XX(1957), 307, fig. 7, where it is incorrectly identified, and a pencil study of another figure which is in the Fogg Art Museum (1931-87-b).

Here is a quote from Retrospective catalogue written by Carol Troyen:

'Sargent prepared for his Salon entry in the academically sanctioned manner, engaging models and making a number of studies of single figures (Harvard University Art Museums, Terra Museum of American Art) before settling on the final arrangement as represented in Boston's version.'
Subject: Another copy of the Oyster Gatherers?
From: "Keith"
Date: 4-14-01

(goto page)

oyster gatherers of cancale/ john singer sargent 

Subject: Yet Another copy 
From: Alan Gonzalez 
<Alan 16> 
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 

Hello Natasha
I recently bought a copy of the above mentioned painting at a charity event, here in the UK. I always thought it was a copy, because the original is at the Corcoran Gallery of Arts Boston. But having read your email replies it appears that there may be other originals still around. My picture is an oil on canvas, and is signed John S Sargent, should I take it to an expert?

 Alan Gonzalez

From: Natasha 
Date Fri, 1 Mar 2002

Dear Alan,

Apparently there are literally scads of these paintings (Oyster Gatherers of Cancale by John Singer Sargent) floating around out there. Most are just copies done by other painters (see Copyists at the Prado). Very few (let's recap: there is this one at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the one at the Corcoran Gallery; then the one that is mentioned in Richard Ormond's 1970 book -- location unknown, and finally the one that was owned by Ralph Curtis for full copies) if but only four (that I know of) are REALLY by John Singer Sargent. Out of all the paintings at my site, Oyster Gatherers continues to be the most asked about painting regarding additional copies. 

I always refer people to my response to "Keith"

Sure there is a possibility that yours is another copy by the REAL John Singer Sargent. I really don't know enough to say.

About a year ago I received a letter from a gentleman wondering whether Sargent might have used the painting as a model for the Royal Academy schools and he was wondering about the possibility that students might have painted it, or copied it, in one of their classes. I wish I had saved the letter because it raises an interesting possibility; and it needs to be investigated.

Since you are in the UK why don't you look into this for us. Why don't you contact the Royal Academy and see if you can do some digging on what they know about Sargent teaching there. 

Hope to hear back from you. 


From: From: Alan Gonzalez 
Alan 16
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 16:04:02 EST

Thank you for your very informative reply,  . .  I wasn't aware that John Sargent had studied at The Royal Academy here in the UK., I will certainly get in touch with them to verify if, at least, he used this particular painting to train his students. I will send you my findings in the near future.
Many Thanks

From: Natasha 
Date Fri, 1 Mar 2002

Sargent wasn't a student at the Royal Academy, he was an instructor (that's why he might have used his painting as a model). After his election to Associate of the Royal Academy (ARA) in 1894, he taught one month every winter. I'm not exactly sure how long that lasted but he was still teaching in 1907 (don't know if those 13 years were without interruption or if he taught beyond 1907), and he would drop in to the schools often.

Welcome aboard the communal search 

all my best



Impressionism Abroad: Boston and French Painting: Royal Academy of Arts, London; Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach, FL; 2005-2006



By:  Natasha Wallace
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Created 1999