John Singer Sargent's Portrait of Ralph Curtis on the Beach at Scheveningen
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Sampling of works
by Curtis

Robert Browning 
The Armstrong Browning Library
Oil on panel 
11 x 8 in. 

Washerwomen in Venice 
Ralph Wormeley Curtis
Private collection 
11.2 x 17 in.  

Gigia Viani
Private collection 
Oil on canvas
48.3 x w: 40.6 cm. (19.5 x 15.8 in) 

The Bridge of Sighs 
Private collection 
71 x 98.5 in.  

Entrance of Little Church 
Private collection 
26.7 x 19 in.  

Portrait of a Lady in Profile
Private collection 
19 x 15.3 in.  

Portrait of a Lady in a Black Hat 
Private collection 
27.2 x 18.8 in.  

Watercolor on paper  
48 x w: 32 cm (18.8 x 12.5 in) 

Cigarreras in Seville 
c. 1888 
Natasha Essay
Private collection
Watercolor on paper 
(19 7/8 x 13 7/8 in.)   

Maestre Juan 
Private collection 
12.7 x 9.2 in. 

Portrait of Ralph Curtis on the Beach at Scheveningen
John Singer Sargent -- American painter 
High Museum of Art
Atlanta, Georgia
Oil on panel
26.7 x 34.3 (10 1/2 x 13 1/2 in.)
 Jpg: High museum of art

Ralph Wormeley Curtis (1854-1922) 
American painter, was Boston born and a graduate of Harvard. He eventually lived in Europe and was a painter of portraits, genres, and interiors. 

Ralph and John would become good friends. They were 2nd cousins (their father's were cousins) though they didn't meet until Curtis went to Paris to study art. It's not exactly clear when that was. 1880 seems to be the best account. It would be through Francis B Chadwick that they met and all three traveled to the Netherlands in August of '80 to excape the heat and study Frans Hals. It was here at Scheveningen that he paints Ralph on the beach.

    Here  Sargent combines drawing and brushwork in a single action, as Hals did to capture Curtis's air of carefree sophistication.
    (The High museum of art)
 * * *

Born into a prominent Boston family, after Harvard in 1878 at the age of twenty-four, Ralph Wormeley Curtis went to Europe with his family. They eventually set up their primary residence in Venice on the Grand Canal buying part of the Palazzo Barbaro. It would be here that he would do most of his painting and would find himself at the center of a cosmopolitan circles of artists including Isabella Stewart Gardner, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Vernon Lee, and of course his cousin and friend: John Singer Sargent. 

He joined Carolus-Duran's atelier and  studied at the Academe Julian under Gustave Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre [1].

Between 1881 and 1893, he exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon, eventually winning an honorable mention at the Paris Exposition Universal of 1889.

In 1897, he married his wife (Lisa de Wolfe Colt) and settled in the Maritime Alps, though often returing to Venice and his parent's palazzo. He, like Sargent, traveled all over Europe and painted where he went, but wasn't nearly as successful. From what I can gather (so far) Curtis didn't really make a living off his paintings. Independently wealthy he was an gentleman artist. 

His father Daniel Curtis was an attorney, also Harvard trained, an agent for Brown, Shipley & Co, of Liverpool and London; and was also a Trustee for the Boston Public Library.

The influence of Sargent on Ralph's art was significant. One can see the two working on similar subjects

Sargent would later  paint a number of portraits of Ralph's family:



John Singer Sargent, An Exhibition -- Whitney Museum, NY & The Art Institute of Chicago 1986-1987

Gondola Days: Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Palazzo Barbaro Circle, 2004

  • 1) info from Blake Benton Fine Art


From: Marie-Charlotte
<iszk owsk>
Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2004

I really enjoyed your site. whe I was very young I stayed in the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice. I used to know Ralph Curtis and his siters Patricia and Liza. This was in the early sixties. I would like to get in touch with them, do you have any contact address?  I would appreciate an email address.  m.c. iszkowski


Copyright 1998-2005 Natasha Wallace all rights reserved
Created 5/24/2003