How To Capture Sunlight In Paintings

Clotilde on the Beach JoaquĆ­n Sorolla 
Museum Sorolla , Madrid, Spain

When examining a painting, our attention is drawn to the figures depicted and how the artist has captured the effects of light. These elements are critical to appreciating a painting as they showcase the artist's skill. Take, for example, Joaquin Sorolla's painting of a woman sitting on a seashore. 

The Spanish artist used sunlight to fill the entire sea and seashore, infusing the painting with a lifelike quality. From the Renaissance to modern-day paintings, artists have sought to portray nature's beauty using light and colour. Landscape artists use recognisable places, textures, and colour combinations to create powerful artistic expressions. 

However, the challenge is to orchestrate different elements, such as figures and settings, to convey the scene's significance. Sorolla's Impressionist style is characterised by immediate visual impressions, smooth strokes, and the use of primary colours, light, and shade. While some artists focus on accurately capturing reality, others aim to depict the beauty and harmony of a scene, sometimes blurring the line between reality and fantasy.

When we look at the painting, we look at the figures painted in it. Secondly, we want to see see how the effect of the light is shown in the painting.

In this manner, we start appreciating a painting. Why it is so? Why do we like the figures and the aspects of light in a painting? It is because these two aspects decide whether the artist has got the skill to paint or not.

Look at this painting. It is a painting of a woman sitting on a seashore. The painter is Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923). He was a Spanish Artist.  We can see how the sunlight has filled the entire sea and the seashore. But what artists have to do is to infuse this sunlight into his or her painting. This painting is one example of how the sunlight can be depicted in the best possible manner in a painting.

Throughout the known history of art, the artists have sought to portray the glories of nature and many of their paintings have become the best-known masterpieces in the history of art. Since the time from the renaissance to the modern-day paintings, the artist uses the light factor to enhance the value of their paintings.

The artists use different places for their landscapes. Sometimes they go for recognizable places, sometimes they rely upon the colour combinations and textures for adding value to the art. While choosing a landscape design, the landscape artists show that even in modern industrialized society the art of landscape painting still has the power to elicit artistic expression. 

The challenge for landscape artists is to orchestrate various figures, environment, and their appropriate settings, the painters use their skill and intuition. They simply want to show the significance of the depicted scene which they want to communicate.

Landscape painting is representational art. The use of colours is among the prime features the artists use. Here in the above landscape painting, the master artist Sorolla had used everything he had in his stockpile. Like other impressionists this painter, Sorolla had also used unusual tonal colours to stir up moods of the seashore, and the environment.

Sorolla was under influence of Impressionism, however, his skill of recreation of the objective reality was not discouraged. His was not the only attention to developing a subjective response.

Immediate visual impression, smooth strokes, and the element of reflected light were, perhaps, the main characteristics of the paintings done by Sorolla. He generally opted for the unmixed primary colours and used the element of light and shade dexterously.

While painting landscapes, the prime object of some artists remains the depiction of the beauty and harmony embedded in the scene before his or her eyes. While doing so they often cross the boundary, between reality and fantasy. It happens. While the painters of reality try hard to depict what they perceive in front of their eyes.

Antoine Chintreuil Oil on Canvas Musee d'Orsay Paris 

When we look at the landscape or seascape before our eyes, we tend to respond in a specific manner. Though differently, in both the cases. differently. But the general, our response towards the landscape is the feeling of deep love and gratitude towards Mother Earth.

When the artist, a painter takes a brush in his or her hand and stands before a blank canvas he or she does not feel differently as a human being. He is just like us. He feels like us, too. But as an artist, with an idea to depict these natural objects on a canvas it becomes a different sport. The artist who stands before a blank canvas, his desire is to reflect his personal or artistic attitude toward the beauty of Mother Earth. 

Look at the above Painting. It is a painting by Antoine Chintreuil (1814 – 1873), a French painter who painted many beautiful scenes capturing bright light and a lively atmosphere around Seine Valley in France. Here the use of bright yellow, Indian yellow perhaps, makes the morning sky and the cultivated landscape lively.

More charmingly the animals standing in the foreground are not much highlighted against the landscape. We can see that the focal point of the painting is at a distance, in the middle of the frame where the bright sunny sky and the sun-bathed earth-space meet each other. The painting of the waterbody in the middle and the use of bright colours have made the whole painting so lively. We can say that the art of exploiting the potentialities of the oil painting is at best here.

It is undeniable fact that the art of landscape paintings throws us on the vastness of land and sea and the sky above our heads. The eye-catching colour scheme used to depict nature charms every artist’s mind and heart.

Every segment of nature has its own effect on our thinking and emotions. The flowing rivers make us believe that nature would provide for our food forever, and the upright mountain challenges us to be brave and innovative.  

The artist tries to depict every mood of the land, sky and sea on canvas. The colours the artists spread on canvas or a piece of paper animate the picture that has been formed in the minds of the artists. We should take it for granted that the final outcome is not the exact replica or a photocopy of what the eyes of the artists have visualised. 

A painting is a pictorial presentation of the artist’s memory, the memory that was before his or her eyes, and the memory that he or she has blended with artistic imagination. [All the above paintings are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

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