‘Strolling along the Seashore’, 1909, by Joaquín Sorolla, regarded as one of his most important works
After three days of writing about a diplomat’s wage dispute woes I am tapped out a bit on the mundane. Hence I escaped to my favorite watering hole Google Art Project and discovered Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (pronounced wokin soroya), the relatively less heralded Spanish master painter (27 February 1863 – 10 August 1923).
Being from Valencia in Spain, which is particularly blessed with glorious natural light, Sorolla’s works have that sunny disposition. Take for instance, his famous painting above. Set on the beach in Valencia the painting depicts his wife Clotilde (left) and daughter Maria. Apart from the gorgeous, life affirming light of the painting, what I like about it is that Sorolla makes sure that we know it is a painting and not a near accurate photographic depiction. The brushstrokes of both the blue sea and the beach sand are quite tangible. Clotide’s elbow and arm are so well executed as a piece of art and not a perfect scientific drawing.
While the painting above is personal, the one below, titled ‘Breakwater’, 1918, is somewhat impersonal in that his human subjects are more like spectators to a captivating show of nature as in the waves hitting the promenade wall in San Sebastian where the painter had a villa.
Sorolla was also known for social realism in his work as obvious in the 1895 painting below titled ‘White Slave Trade’.
The painting depicts four prostitutes in a railway compartment being escorted by their procurer, the older woman in black on the right. Contrast the bright and sunny disposition of ‘Strolling along the Seashore’ with the gloomy sense of resignation of ‘White Slave Trade’.
And finally for the purposes of today’s post, the painting below titled ‘Research’, 1897, showing the well known psychiatrist of Spain, Dr. Luis Simarro Lacabra (in a white coat) and his colleagues at their research laboratory. The characters here seem intensely focused unlike the works above. The light is also very different. It has the feel of a lab.
On a site dedicated to Sorolla, artist Iain Vellacott quotes the master as saying something striking: “I could not paint at all if I had to paint slowly. Every effect is so transient, it must be rapidly painted.” The idea seems to be that for any work of art to be memorable the artist must capture it in the right moment.