While driving home from seeing the exhibition, Sorolla and America, at the Meadows
Museum in Dallas, we discussed the artist's phenomenally rapid rise from young
art student to one of the most famous painters in the world at the time.
|Old Garden of the Alcazar in Seville by Sorolla, 1910.
Granted, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida was born with an
outstanding talent, but talent isn't usually enough. Painting is a craft, and
the importance of good training cannot be overstated. Fortunately, his
enthusiasm for drawing and learning how to paint
was noticed by his foster parents early on,
and they saw to it that he received special art instruction. It is interesting
to note that although Sorolla was also trained as a locksmith - his
foster father's trade - he was not pressured to remain a locksmith. Instead, he
was offered better art schooling which led to winning a competition to study in
Rome. From there, he worked extremely hard to take advantage of every opportunity
to win the international prizes and recognition which eventually made him
famous enough to be an independent artist. If he hadn't received encouragement,
support and a first-class art education, his natural talent may not have been
enough to make him the exceptional painter he became.
In his prime, Sorolla pushed painting beyond the
known and accepted limits of the era into a new world of expressive
possibilities. No one else painted like him. This exhibition underscores that
Today, unfortunately, a good art education isn't a
priority in many of our schools. Why this should be so makes neither social nor
economic sense. Many in our culture consider art to be just a pastime, an
entertainment, an unnecessary luxury and that false perception makes the arts
an easy budget target to eliminate.
The reality is that the arts are a huge economic
engine that contributes over a billion dollars of growth to our national GDP
every year. But even more importantly, if there are fewer art teachers, what
will happen to all the young talents out there? How will they learn their
craft? Who will encourage and inspire them? There may be another young Sorolla,
bursting with talent, energy and ideas, but frustrated by the lack of interest
in supporting what he or she can do.
Over half of the artists we have interviewed for The
Artist's Road report that they had someone around them who was a strong
influence in encouraging their interest in art at an early age. The answer to
those budget cuts is that all of us must take up the educational slack in any
way we can. We must be available to those young people who need encouragement
or guidance and instruction in our communities. It is surprising how easy it is
to start a little fire.
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--John and Ann