Incorrect Username, Email, or Password
Still, blue-green water sits at the base of rocky mountain ledges.

In the foreground, there is a shore littered with sticks, and beyond it, still blue-green water. A strip of rocky earth pokes out from the water at its center, with a few small trees on the right-hand side. There is a cropping of tall pine trees on the far side of the water, on the left-hand side of the scene. Beyond the water are layers of mountainous ledges. The layer closest to the water is spotted with trees. The next layer is rocky and barren. The farthest layer is covered with snow.

Gallery Text

In this closely cropped view of the Canadian Rockies, John Singer Sargent explored the materiality of paint. With its rough, gestural brushwork, thick layers of pigment, and thin washes, Lake O’Hara exemplifies the artist’s late style. The painting verges on abstraction, and is in stark contrast to the work of earlier painters who freighted their images of the Rockies with symbolism.

Lake O’Hara occupies an important position in the history of the Fogg Museum. When it was acquired in 1916, the painting was the first work by a living artist to enter the museum’s collection. Edward W. Forbes, the Fogg’s director, arranged for the purchase of Lake O’Hara despite his uncertainty about the quality of contemporary painting: “In the past, the policy of the Fogg Museum has been to exhibit the work of men who are dead.” But “Mr. Sargent is usually considered to be the greatest living American painter, and one or two of the greatest if not the greatest of any nationality.”

Identification and Creation

Object Number
John Singer Sargent, American (Florence, Italy 1856 - 1925 London, England)
Lake O'Hara
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2700, European and American Art, 19th century, Impressionism and the Late Nineteenth Century
View this object's location on our interactive map

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
97.5 x 116.2 cm (38 3/8 x 45 3/4 in.)
framed: 122.6 x 141.6 x 7.3 cm (48 1/4 x 55 3/4 x 2 7/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.l.: John S. Sargent 1916
  • exhibition label: back of frame, paper: [from exhibition The Private World of John Singer Sargent]
  • exhibition label: back of frame, paper
  • exhibition label: back of frame, paper


Recorded Ownership History
John Singer Sargent, sold; to Fogg Art Museum, November 1916

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Louise E. Bettens Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.

Publication History

  • Edward Waldo Forbes, "Recent Gifts to the Fogg Art Museum and What They Signify", Harvard Alumni Bulletin (Cambridge, MA, January 25, 1917), vol. XIX, no. 17, pp. 327-331, ill. p. 327
  • "Report of the O'Hara Meadows Camp, 1921", Canadian Alpine Journal (1922), vol. 12, p. 200
  • The Fogg Art Museum and the Division of the Fine Arts of Harvard University, brochure (Cambridge, MA, May 25, 1922), reproduced (unpaginated) in b/w
  • "Great Sargent Retrospective Exhibition Opens at the Grand Central Galleries", Art News (February 23, 1924), XXII, no. 20, p. 2, p. 2, repr.
  • Leila Mechlin, "The Sargent Exhibition: Grand Central Art Galleries New York", The American Magazine of Art (April 1924), vol. XV, no. 4, pp. 168-190, p. 185, ill. p. 182
  • Retrospective Exhibition of Important Works by John Singer Sargent, exh. cat., Grand Central Art Galleries (New York, NY, 1924), no. 8
  • A Catalogue of the Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the Late John Singer Sargent, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1925), no. 115, repr.
  • William Howe Downes, John S. Sargent, His Life and Work, Little, Brown & Company (Boston, MA, 1925), p. 248; repr. at back of book (unpaginated)
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, A Catalogue of the Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the Late John Singer Sargent (Boston, 1926), no. 118, repr.
  • Memorial Exhibition of the Work of John Singer Sargent, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY, 1926), no. 57, repr.
  • Fogg Art Museum Handbook, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1927), repr. in b/w, p. 59
  • Fogg Art Museum Handbook, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1931), repr. in b/w p. 73
  • Fogg Art Museum Handbook, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1936), ill. p. 109
  • Edward Waldo Forbes, History of the Fogg Art Museum, Unpublished (1956), p. 163
  • Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, 1967)
  • Richard Ormond, John Singer Sargent: Paintings, Drawings, Watercolors, Harper & Row (New York, NY and London, England, 1970), p. 78
  • Louise Todd Ambler and Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, "American Painting at Harvard", Antiques (New York, NY, November 1972), vol. 102, no. 5, pp. 876-883, p. 877, pl. II
  • Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, Peter G. Huenink, Earl A. Powell III, Harry Z. Rand, and Nanette C. Sexton, American Art at Harvard, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), cat. 119, ill.
  • Karen Wilkin, Art in Alberta: Paul Kane to the Present, exh. cat., Edmonton Art Gallery (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 1973), ill. n.p.
  • Rebecca W. Karo, "Ah Wilderness! Sargent in the Rockies, 1916", Fenway Court; Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, MA, 1977), pp. 21-29, p. 28, fig. 12
  • John Singer Sargent, His Own Work, exh. cat., Coe Kerr Gallery, Inc. (New York, NY, 1980), repr. in b/w fig. 60; in checklist, unpaginated
  • S. Lane Faison, Jr., The New England Eye: Master American Paintings from New England School, College & University Collections, exh. cat., Williams College Museum of Art (Williamstown, MA, 1983), p. 11, p. 60; pl. 50, ill.
  • Caroline A. Jones, Modern Art at Harvard: The Formation of the Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums (New York, NY and Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press, 1985). With an essay by John Coolidge and a preface by John M. Rosenfield. To accompany the inaugural exhibition at the Sackler Museum, Oct 21 1985 - Jan 5 1986, reproduced in color fig. 6, p. 18
  • Patricia Hills, "'Painted Diaries': Sargent's Late Subject Pictures", exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art / Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1986), p. 199, fig. 156
  • Trevor J. Fairbrother, John Singer Sargent and America, Garland Publishing, Inc. (New York, NY, 1986), pp. 333-334, fig. 93
  • John Grande, "John Singer Sargent in the Canadian Rockies: Lake O'Hara, 1916", Fine Art and Auction Review (March-April 1988), vol. 14, no. 4, p. 21, reproduced p. 21
  • John Updike, Just Looking: Essays on Art, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (New York, NY, 1989), p. 64, ill.
  • Timothy Anglin Burgard, American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1994), pp. 3, 10, fig. 2, cat. 22
  • Bruce Hugh Russell, "John Singer Sargent in the Canadian Rockies: 1916", The Beaver: Exploring Canada's History, Canada's National Historical Society (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, December 1997), vol. 77, no. 6, pp. 4-12, ill. p. 5
  • Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Erica E. Hirshler, and T. J. Jackson Lears, Sargent: The Late Landscapes, exh. cat., Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1999), cat. no. 13, repr., pp. 63, 64, 71, 103
  • Stephanie Herdrich and Helen Barbara Weinberg, American Drawings and Watercolors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: John Singer Sargent, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY, 2000), p. 349-350, under no. 331
  • Jane Lytton Gooch, Artists of the Rockies: Inspiration of Lake O'Hara (2003), p. 31
  • Lisa Christensen, The Lake O'Hara Art of J.E.H. MacDonald and Hiker's Guide, Fifth House (Calgary, 2003), p. 12
  • Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Virginia Anderson, and Kimberly Orcutt, ed., American Paintings at Harvard, Volume Two, Paintings, Drawings, Pastels and Stained Glass by Artists Born 1826-1856, Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press (U.S.) (Cambridge, MA and New Haven, CT, 2008), p. 337, cat. 354, ill.
  • Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Expanding Horizons: American and Canadian Painting and Photography, 1860-1918, exh. cat., The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montreal, 2009), p. 186, repr. p. 185 as fig. 2
  • Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes, 1914-1925, Yale University Press (New Haven, 2016), no. 1797, repr., pp. 143-144, 147, 306, repr. p. 140 (detail); frame: fig. 72, p. 72
  • James D. Balestrieri, "Sargent Painted Here: John Singer Sargent & Chicago's Gilded Age at the Art Insitute of Chicago", American Fine Art Magazine (September / October 2018), No. 41, pp. 58-63, p. 58, repr.
  • John Singer Sargent, exh. cat., Nationalmuseum (Stockholm, 2018), repr. pp. 52-53
  • Annelise K. Madsen, John Singer Sargent and Chicago's Gilded Age, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 2018), cat. no. 46, fig. 53, pp. 76, 123, 205

Exhibition History

  • Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by John Singer Sargent for the Benefit of the American Ambulance Hospital, Paris, Copley Gallery, Boston, 01/22/1917 - 02/03/1917
  • Unidentified Exhibition, Algonquin Club, 1920, Algonquin Club, Boston, 04/01/1920 - 04/30/1920
  • Fourteenth Annual Exhibition of Selected Paintings by American Artists, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, 05/29/1920 - 09/07/1920
  • Unidentified Exhibition, Hood Museum of Art, 1921, Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, 01/03/1921 - 01/22/1921
  • Retrospective Exhibition of Important Works of John Singer Sargent, Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, 02/01/1924 - 03/31/1924
  • Unidentified Exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago, 1924, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 05/01/1924 - 05/31/1924
  • John Singer Sargent Memorial Exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 10/01/1925 - 11/30/1925
  • Memorial Exhibition of Works by John Singer Sargent, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 01/04/1926 - 02/14/1926
  • Selected Paintings by American Artists, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 11/26/1926 - 01/31/1927; Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, San Diego, 02/01/1927 - 03/31/1927
  • Unidentified Exhibition, Wadsworth Atheneum, 1928, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, 01/01/1928 - 12/31/1928
  • American Painting, Fitchburg Art Association, Fitchburg, 07/01/1930 - 08/31/1930
  • Unidentified Exhibition, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, 1933, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art (now Nelson-Atkins), Kansas City, 12/01/1933 - 03/31/1934
  • Sargent and Mancini, Castano Galleries, Boston, 11/08/1951 - 01/16/1952
  • American Paintings from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Symphony Hall, Boston, 02/21/1958 - 03/15/1958
  • Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 10/12/1967 - 12/03/1967
  • American Art at Harvard, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/19/1972 - 06/18/1972
  • Art in Alberta: Paul Kane to the Present, Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, 04/06/1973 - 05/10/1973; Glenbow Museum, Calgary, 07/01/1973 - 08/25/1973
  • The American Landscape, Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago, 11/15/1973 - 12/30/1973
  • The New England Eye Masterpieces of American Art from New England Colleges and Universities, Williams College Museum of Art, 09/09/1983 - 11/04/1983
  • Modern Art at Harvard, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/21/1985 - 01/05/1986
  • John Singer Sargent, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 10/07/1986 - 01/04/1987; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 02/07/1987 - 04/19/1987
  • American Art at Harvard: Cultures and Contexts, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/01/1994 - 12/30/1994
  • Sargent: The Late Landscapes, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 05/21/1999 - 09/26/1999
  • 32Q: 2700 Impressionism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/15/2015 - 10/11/2016; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/13/2019 - 01/01/2050
  • John Singer Sargent and Chicago's Gilded Age, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 07/01/2018 - 09/30/2018
  • John Singer Sargent, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 10/13/2018 - 01/13/2019

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Related Articles

Related Works

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at