Saturday, February 27, 2016

A tribute to Sorolla on his birthday

February 27, 1863. Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (27 February 1863 - 10 August 1923) was a Valencian Spanish painter. Sorolla excelled in the painting of portraits, landscapes, and monumental works of social and historical themes. His most typical works are characterized by a dexterous representation of the people and landscape under the sunlight of his native land. In this image: A technician adjusts 'The Bathing Hour' a painting by Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla on display at Sotheby's auction rooms in London, Friday, May 29, 2009.

"Mending the Sails" is perfect in every way. It is magnificently conceived, masterfully constructed, and painted in the most beautiful manner imaginable. The colors, brushwork, paint quality, detail and lack of detail, focus and lack of focus, expression in the faces, setting into the background: all absolutely flawless, and more that that, absolutely gorgeous. Never before or since has a painter done a better job harmonizing a full array of natural colors.

Contemporary realists have an array of machines and devices unimagined by Sorolla, and yet they cannot produce anything like this. Why? We cannot seem to come up with subjects this interesting or paint them with such virtuosity. To put it another way, we simply aren't as good as Sorolla.

Miles Mathis has  spoken out against the retentiveness of some of the realists in the US, who paint on plastic and sand away all specks and generally worry all interest out of their paintings. I recommend Sorolla to them, as a tonic to this fussiness. Sorolla is primarily interested in his image, not his paint. He learned this from his master, Velasquez. Velasquez also often uses a rough canvas and leaves lots of specks and globs standing in his final paint layer. Both seem completely blind to any small details like this. Sorolla occasionally takes this a bit too far, as I said, as if he is doing it wilfully, but Velasquez always knows where to stop. If you are noticing the specks in a Velasquez, you are standing too close and are not looking at the painting like a painting should be looked at. The moment you look at the painting as a painting, the specks and globs disappear, and you understand why he ignored them--or used them. (from Review of a Sorolla/Sargent show in Paris).

Sorolla was acknowledged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as one of the foremost Spanish painters. He initially rose to acclaim in the United States with his prize-winning submission to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. On the heels of this success, and a triumph at the 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition, Sorolla was invited by the philanthropist and collector Archer Milton Huntington to show his work in 1909 at The Hispanic Society in New York City. The public response to this exhibition was unprecedented, drawing more than 150,000 visitors in one month.

Born in Valencia Spain on February 27, 1863, and orphaned two years later, Joaquin Sorolla overcame his humble begin- nings by winning a scholarship to the Spanish Academy in Rome. Upon graduation, he began sending his paintings to all the leading salons, including Madrid, Paris, Munich, Chicago, Vienna, Berlin and Venice, continuously winning awards. Re- quests for portraits began about this time and, combined with his prize-winning exhibition pieces, secured his position as a world-class artist.

Soon tiring of the academic sobriety of his large studio compositions, he turned his attention to outdoor location work, and from 1901 to 1905 he produced the 500 works of his first one-man show in Paris (1906). This was followed by numerous other important shows, all of which led up to his greatest success at the Hispanic Society of America (New York). In 1911, he began a monumental set of murals for the society depicting life in the various provinces of Spain. The vast size and scope of the project (some pieces measuring 15x35 feet) forced him to trade his usual sense of compositional verve for a more rigid and stylized approach. The series took Sorolla seven years to complete. Exhausted by the end of it, he suffered a stroke in 1920, leaving him paralyzed and unable to work. He died three years later at the age of 60.

Joaquin Sorolla was passionate about the two loves in his life - his family and his art. Sorolla painted very, very fast. "I could not paint at all if I had to paint slowly," he once said. "Every effect is so transient, it must be rapidly painted." Most of his pictures were painted in from four to six mornings, many in one or two. He did not have a set idea of how a painting would turn out before he started, preferring to build up the composition as he went along. Sorolla was primarily interested in the image, not his paint. He learned this from his master, Velasquez who also often used a rough canvas and did not highly finish his canvas.

Whether working outdoors in sunlight or painting from a window or lamp-lit interior, Sorolla kept reasonably close to the age-old axiom that every object in light should be painted a middle-gray value or above, and every object in shadow a middle-gray value or below. And a study of his work bears this out. 

Sorollo from Wikipedia 
Dedicated site 
The Anthenaeum 

1 comment:

Karen Graham said...

You are right, Nancy. Sorolla's work is flawless. The "Mending the Sails' is really beautiful. it looks almost like a photograph in the details that show up.