In 1886, John La Farge received an invitation from Augustus Saint-Gaudens to accompany the sculptor to Japan, where he planned to conduct research for a commission from writer Henry Adams to construct a memorial to Adams’s recently deceased wife, Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams, a Washington-based amateur photographer and the inspiration for Henry James’s “The Portrait of a Lady." La Farge paused his design work on the interior of Henry Hobson Richardson’s Trinity Church in Boston and joined Saint-Gaudens in Japan. Both artists found inspiration in Kuwannon, the Buddhist goddess of compassion. This watercolor is one of many that La Farge painted of Kuwannon, representations of which served as the basis for Saint-Gaudens’s famous Adams Memorial. Acquired through the bequest of Mary Sophia Walker in 1904, this was part of a donation from the Walker sisters that, along with a previous gift made in 1894, formed the foundation of the College’s watercolor collection.
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