In 1903 Sargent exhibits his watercolors to the public for the first time at the Carfax Gallery in London. This one-man show contained 30 of his works including sketches. Afterwards in May of that year, Sargent travels to Spain and paints a number of watercolors depicting Spanish solders (these may be part of those done that year).
The following year (1904) he exhibits at the New English Art Club after a 10 year absence and shows his watercolors -- Spanish Solders is mentioned in the catalogue of that show.
John's management of his career was always very calculated and shrewd. In Paris, he had been recognized fairly early, but he struggled in both Great Britain and the United States. In 1878 he helped form the Society of American Artist, New York, in opposition to the National Academy of Design. In 1886 after moving to London following the Madame X scandal, he helped form the New English Art Club, in opposition to the conservative Royal Academy. During this period, London was enthralled with the Pre-Raphael Brotherhood school and its derivative styles and it thought Sargent too "French" (Impressionistic).
It isn't until 1891 when he was just starting the Boston Public Library Mural commission and his popularity in portraits with the American public, that he is elected Associate of the National Academy of Design, New York. And it isn't until after Lady Agnew of Lochnaw and others that he is elected, in 1894, Associate to the Royal Academy. Once he was in the Royal Academy however, he pretty much stopped exhibiting his oils with the NEAC.
But now that he was showing his watercolors publicly, Sargent decides to take the same career path he had done with his oils. Instead of exhibiting his watercolors with the conservative Royal Academy, he decides to take his work back to the New English Art Club were he had grown to public acceptance.
It's important to remember this was a time when watercolors was still not fully considered a "serious" medium, but looked upon as an "amateur's" medium for amateur artists. Sargent was one of a handful of people that would change that perception forever.
ExhibitionsJohn Singer Sargent, An Exhibition -- Whitney Museum, NY & The Art Institute of Chicago 1986-1987
The Royal Academy was founded in 1768 under King George III and was considered the counterpart to the Paris Salon. In 1897 Sargent is elected full member of the Royal Academy and teaches at the Academy school for three years. in 1919 he's pushed to take the presidency, but Sargent refusses.
More about the Royal