Sunday, March 26, 2006

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida

Joaquin Sorolla
Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla is sometimes called an Impressionist, an inaccurate label but an inevitable comparison. His canvases are flooded with sunlight and the effects of sun and shadow on people, objects, landscapes and particularly on the surface of water, often portrayed in paintings of the sun-drenched beaches in his native Valencia.

Like the French “painters of light”, he worked en plein air, painting in the natural light of the scene he was depicting rather than taking the work into the studio as was the practice in the 19th century. Also like the Impressionists, he often used strokes of pure color, letting the eye optically “mix” the final colors rather than blending to a smooth finish.

Despite the similarities, Sorolla was actually more of a realist, or a “Sorollaist”, than an adherent of the Impressionists’ ideals and principles. Sarolla had his own unique vision and approach. It makes as much sense to compare him to Courbet or Corot as to the Impressionists; although it’s enlightening to view his work in relation to those Impressionists who painted more directly, like Sisley and Caillebotte. A more apt comparison might be John Singer Sargent, who also shared some characteristics with the Impressionists but was essentially a realist, a painter of light and an adherent of his own unique style.

Sorolla was particularly fascinated with the play of sunlight on cloth: clothing, towels, sheets or sails, as well as scenes of young children playing in the sunlight on the beach. He was prolific, painted rapidly and often felt free to leave areas of his canvas unfinished or rendered with a few quick strokes of color. When it came to color, Sorolla was a master of defying convention, juxtaposing colors that ordinary painters of his day would never have placed together, in some ways anticipating the Modedrnist movement that would eventually shove him and many other important realists into ill-deserved obscurity.

Sorolla is much less well known than he should be today as a result. He is regaining attention and respect however, as the foam of the Modernist wave washes back into the sea and the solid bedrock of realism is revealed again. There is a nice appreciation from Peter Saint-André, but I’ve found little on the web in the way of Sorolla biographies in English.

Thankfully, that is not the case with his painting, there are many rich troves of images of Sorolla’s paintings, both in English and Spanish. Some of them are listed below. There is also a nice book: Joaquin Sorolla by Blanca Pons-Sorolla. There is a Sorolla Museum containing examples of Sorolla’s work, (along with a collection put together by Sorolla of the works of other artists) and a recreation of the artist’s studio, in Sorolla’s former house in Madrid.

12 thoughts on “Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida

  1. Camden

    Awesome dude! Do You have the hispanic society????? I wanna know so tell me dude.By the way im 28 years old, and i lasted in scool for ,…… till’ the 8th grade.

  2. Tom Brown

    I have been painting and teaching all my life and moved to Spain three years ago. I am almost embarassed to say I only discovered this remarkable artist since moving here. I have the Spanish book on Sorolla which I am reading painfully slowly. Does anyone know where I can access any writings on Sorrolla in English?

  3. Lyd

    Nice article here- really helped on research I’ve been doing for a presentation. I like that you mention that the title “impressionsist” is somewhat innaccurate. Great work!

  4. David Kasman

    You have written an excellent description of Sorolla’s unique approach to outdoor painting. To quote Edmund Peel’s book “Ever since I began to paint”, he (Sorolla) confided, “my obsession was to destroy all conventionalism”.

  5. Barbara Tate

    We recently saw a breathtaking show of Sorolla’s murals of life in Spain in Málaga. The works are scheduled to return to The Hispanic Society of America (a free museum and reference library for the study of the arts and cultures of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America, located on Audubon Terrace, Broadway between 155 and 156 Streets, NYC – 212-926-2234) early in 2010. We will definitely plan to revisit his work at the first opportunity.

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