An Out-of-Doors Study (or Paul Helleu Sketching with his Wife), John Singer Sargent, 1889

The painter’s eyes are hidden by the brim of his hat as he delicately applies paint to the canvas, pinky up. I’ve always found paintings of painters painting so unique; as an opportunity to reveal what they think about their own craft. This one glorifies by simplifying, as the painter’s companion lies next to him in the grass, with their shining canoe resting behind them – tail end still in the water.

He’s even using his fishing rod to prop up his canvas, as a way of officially merging these two very leisurely activities. The wisps of grass flow up all around the couple, raising them up into a cloud of green and white. The lake behind is one flat color, like a plate of glass with nothing behind it.

Post addition! 
Thanks to a comment left by an fellow art-enthusiast named Adrian, I’d like to add the following image to this post, which could very well be Sargent painting this very piece! The grass looks exactly the same and the angle would fit perfectly.
Photo from the History of Photography blog
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  1. This was painted in 1889 when Helleu and Sargent were at Fladbury in Worcestershire. Take a look at the link to this photo of Sargent painting. I would bet a year’s salary that THIS is Sargent painting PC Helleu and his wife on the banks of the Avon. The reeds are the same and the angle of his gaze would fit…and this was taken in Fladbury in 1889. I have never found anything by Helleu that would fit the oil-sketch he’s working on, sadly.

    • So cool!!! Thanks so much Adrian, that photo of Sargent looks like it matches up exactly!

    • Equally awesome! I just got my very own pintrest so if you know of any other cool boards to follow let me know!