SPANISH ARTISTS: Painting Sea and Sunlight

Joaquin Sorolla Walk on the Beach
Joaquín Sorolla         Walk on The Beach    
 Oil on Canvas Sorolla Museum, Madrid, Spain

Among the art-lovers, it is said that a room full of paintings is a room full of thoughts. It is because the artists depict their thoughts through colours. 

But if a room is full of paintings by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, it would be a room full of sunlight. Such was his love for the sun and seashores. Such excellent was his infusion of the sunlight in his paintings.           

Born in Valencia, Spain in 1863, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida was overwhelmed by the natural magnificence of the landscapes he lived in. He painted the sunlight falling on the sand; he painted the sunlight falling on the water; he painted sunlight falling on the hats and umbrellas of the women. He did it with the same expertise he painted the portraits of the royal family members. Sorolla's paintings of the bathers are some of the best paintings by a Spanish artist. Look what Sorolla once said: 

"My only ambition was to create an honest picture that would interpret nature as she really is, as she ought to be seen." 

Yes, it was his passion, to remain honest to the subject he wanted to paint. He always followed his passion.

Valencian Fisherman Joaquín Sorolla Oil on Canvas 
Valencian Fisherman Analysed:  

Look at this painting Valencian Fishermen. This painting was estimated to be sold at 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 GBP. But it was sold at 3,737,250 GBP (US $ 5,945,591). In this painting Valencian Fishermenthe artist had painted the life of the fishermen. But Sorolla had injected the sunlight into their life. He infused the sunlight in every drop of the sea-water. Its size is 65cm x 87cm. It is presently owned by a private art collector. The painting was purchased in the year 1985 by the father of the present owner. 

It seems that Sorolla used to go through a process of observation. Very silently, very keenly. He had a strong feeling to see something happening. Especially happening on the water of the sea. Above all his desire to learn new shades of the sunlight made his art much consolidated. When he visited Paris in 1989 and saw the paintings of master painters of the past, he got an idea about how to infuse the effect of light onto canvases.

All the artist face genuine challenges. For an artist, especially the artist who is fond of capturing the here and now of the scene, it is difficult to finish a painting on a large canvas.  He or she has to hurry. Otherwise, the feel of the environment would change during long hours. The artist had to work speedily, as not to lose the appearance of the transient effect. But the artist like Sorolla would do the wonder in capturing the real feel of the scene.

This Spanish artist had exhibited his paintings in almost all the major cities of Europe. He displayed his art in London, Paris, and other art centres of Europe. In one of his famous paintings, Walk on the Beach (1909), Joaquín Sorolla had shown his artistic prowess at the best. 

Joaquín Sorolla Valencian Fisher Women

The Artist: Look at the image of the painting Valencian Fisher Women which is given here. We can see how the mass of the sunlight is spread all over the frame. 

The figures of two women enjoying the pleasure of a sunny day seem to feel extremely happy in the scene. The artist has depicted clothes in white colour; the white colour symbolizes peace and pleasure. While looking closely at the painting, we see how the artist had collected the wind effect and sent it onto the canvas. See the fluttering clothes of the women. Their clothes here look like the waving sails of a boat. 

Sorolla had never restricted his creative impulse. He never restrained his appetite to do something unusual. He was fond of painting the sunlight. Being a master portrait painter of Spain at that time, he had received many commissions for portrait making. But he would make, the model, the person to be painted standing under the sun. He would not compromise on his choices.  

Sorolla was fond of making the life of common people adorned. In the painting Valencian Fisher Women, the first thing that grabs our attention is the flutter of clothes. If we remember our visits to the sea, we remember that the wind plays a large role. so it had played a large role here. We can feel the presence of the flowing wid in every brush-stroke.  

This painting depicts how Sorolla was fascinated by the beauty of the sea, and how masterly he would paint a scene at the sea. What is eye-catching in this painting? Here the movement of the persons portrayed in the foreground. The powerful brush-strokes, loaded with the light falling on the clothes tell us the whole story about how the people would behave at the beach. Sorolla was very much particular about the model's attendance, too. 

Joaquín Sorolla  The Three Sails - 1903

The Three Sails Analysed:  If we look at some of his paintings, we can see that Sorolla’s art was influenced by two great painters: one was Velazquez and another was American painter John Singer Sargent. 

He was Sargent's friend who admired his landscapes wherein he had depicted American landscapes. To honour his friend, Sorolla had gifted one of his paintings to John Sargent.

Look at the painting The Three Sails. This painting was estimated to be sold at 3,000,000 - 4,000,000 USD. It fetched 4,521,000 USD at an auction. The size of the painting is 96.5cm x 138cm. It is oil on canvas.   In the painting The Three Sails, we see the same technique of depicting the persons and objects appearing in and around the sea. As the title refers to the three sails in the water, it refers to also the three women walking on the beach.  

Here in the above painting, The Three Sails, Sorolla has made the painting representing the social custom of wearing a hat and long skirts. It was conventional in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This painting is a masterpiece due to the masterly showing of the sun, the light effect, and the fluttering fabric. Look at the density of the colours used for the sails. The waves pose a scene similar to the actual scene at the seashore. Due to the excellent use of the varying brush-strokes, we can feel the whole painting as a moving scene.

Art and Contemporary Lifestyle: The artist always attempts to show the contemporary lifestyle of the people. The life of the men, woman, and children living in his or her surrounding become the subjects. He or she would not miss infusing the customs of the society. The artist displays the choices of the people. 

It is a well-known fact that every artist has his or her own mood. The artists do their work only according to their mood and choices. For the painting María at La Granja (1907), Sorolla had his daughter standing under the heat of the sun. Not only that but for the portrait painting known as Hussar’s Uniform (1907), he had requested King Alfonso XIII to stand in the open and under the heat of the sun. Such was his genuineness. Such was his desire to paint the portraits with full effects of the light. [All the above paintings are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

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