|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
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.
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
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
|My Wife and Daughters in the Garden by Joaquin Sorolla,
oil painting, 1910.
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