His Painting Palette Was the Size of a Piano Top

Under the Awning by Joaquin Sorolla, oil painting, 1910.
Under the Awning by Joaquin Sorolla, oil painting, 1910.

"There is nothing truer than truth. All the mistakes committed by great artists are due to their having separated themselves from truth, believing that their imagination is stronger…There is nothing stronger than nature. With nature in front of us we can do everything well." – Joaquin Sorolla

Upon the opening of the 1906 Paris exhibition of Sorolla's work, Camille Mauclair wrote, "Artists of France, I beg you to visit this exhibition, where you will learn all the lessons of plein air, line, color, impasto, and originality."

Last month, John received the catalog, The Painter: Joaquin Sorolla by Edmund Peel as a birthday present. It is from the 1989 exhibition of Sorolla's work and it has left us both, once again, in awe of the talent, energy, and mastery of this great artist. John was fortunate enough to see the exhibition when it was in New York at the IBM Gallery, and to see in person the large canvases, many painted entirely outdoors—it changed his vision of what painting could be, forever.

It is refreshing again to see Sorolla's bold use of vibrant color. Although he began with earth colors and a darker "Old Masters" palette in his portrait paintings, it seems to have been the pull to paint his subjects outdoors, in sunlight, that transformed his palette to the brighter, more vibrant colors for which he became known.

Sewing the Sail by Joaquin Sorolla, oil painting, 1896.
Sewing the Sail by Joaquin Sorolla, oil painting, 1896.

A major influence on the young Sorolla was the painter Jules Bastien-LePage, who championed the rural life of France in his pictures. Sorolla, likewise, loved to paint the working people of Spain, especially the fishermen. He loved to paint white fabrics in the intense Spanish sun. White sails, white dresses, white beaches were all painted lovingly and exuberantly, and he made brilliant use of cool violets and blues to set off the shadows, all painted with decisive, calligraphic strokes. His masterwork, Sewing the Sail is a prime example of this.

He was also remarkable for his prodigious and ambitious workload. He exhorted his students to produce not one study for a studio work but ten! He had no qualms about working life-size outdoors, where he rigged up great swaths of fabric on frames to shade his work and provide the right lighting for his models. When one model would tire, he had a replacement step in so that the work could continue. Historians record that Sorolla worked 6 to 9 hours a day and kept a covered bed in his studio in order to sleep close to his work and be able to begin painting quickly without disturbing the rest of the household.

My Wife and Daughters in the Garden by Joaquin Sorolla, oil painting, 1910. Valencian Fisherwomen by Joaquin Sorolla, oil painting, 1915.
My Wife and Daughters in the Garden by Joaquin Sorolla,
oil painting, 1910.
Valencian Fisherwomen
by Joaquin Sorolla, oil painting, 1915.

It is said that in the studio he sometimes used a palette the size of a grand piano lid and brushes three feet long to allow him to stand back from his large paintings. He would paint with quick, decisive short strokes until the finish, when he would secretly knit the loose assemblage of colorful strokes into a masterwork with a careful application of middle-greys, that he said, "are worth lots of money."                           

If you ever get the opportunity to see this master's work first-hand, we heartily recommend it. It may provide a lifetime of inspiration.

Join us on The Artist's Road for more inspiring in-depth articles.

–Ann & John

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John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.

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