Joaquin Sorolla Mastered Light

Joaquin Sorolla is known as the Master of Spanish light. In his finest works, blazing sun streams through ocean waves, gauzy fabrics and lush trees. It washes over gardens, noble Spanish towns and the faces of his people at work and play in city and rural settings.

In Sorolla:The Masterworks, edited by his great grand-daughter Blanca Pons-Sorolla, she writes that his painting, Sewing the Sail, exemplifies his mature treatment of light.

“A pure white sail captures the shimmering pattern of the sun through garden plants. Excluding the plants, their pots, the seamstresses and the bright pastel-colored seaside landscape in the background, the sail on close examination betrays Sorolla’s complex coloration—a precise mix of pinks, blues and yellows—that gives the viewer the impression of a simple white sail with sun and shade.”

Many of his canvases were painted in open air. His landscapes, seascapes and portraits are vivid with color and electric with rapid movement. He shares the spontaneity of the Impressionists, but his style is unique. Many of his more than 350 canvases were accomplished in as little as 2 to 6 days.

Sorolla once said,

“I could not paint at all if I had to paint slowly outdoors… None of what surrounds us is static…But even if everything was fixed and stagnant, it would just take the sun’s movement, which is continuous, to change the scene…”

He rarely had a set idea before starting a painting. Instead, he allowed the composition to take shape, guiding his brushes as he worked.

“When an artist begins to count strokes instead of regarding nature, he is lost. This preoccupation with technique, at the expense of truth and sincerity, is the principal fault I find in much of the work of modern painters.”

Kindred Spirits Were Sought To Capture Light On Their Canvases

Women dressed in breezy white dresses were favorite Sorolla subjects. In America, Charles Courtney Curran was developing a reputation for his mastery of capturing light and nature in motion. Many of his subjects were also lovely young women wearing romantic white, wind swept dresses.  A few years before in Denmark, By the 1880s, Peder Severin Kroyer and a robust community known as the Skagen Painters strove to capture their area’s magical quality of blue light on canvas.

Joaquin Sorolla Painted His Path To Success

Joaquin Sorolla (pronounced Soroya) was one of the most famous artists of his time. He painted scenes from profound moments in history to tragic moments in daily Spanish life. But most of his creative energy was spent in joyful celebration of humans enjoying nature. Some critics discount his taste for the sunny side. Regardless, from his early career, he received the most coveted prizes, exhibited at the most prestigious shows and was considered a hero throughout Spain.

He was born Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida in Valencia on February 27, 1863. At the age of two, he was orphaned during a cholera epidemic. His maternal aunt adopted him and his younger sister. Fortunately, his aunt recognized and nurtured his talent from an early age. When he was still a boy, she negotiated a job for him working as a lighting assistant to a local photographer. Lessons learned from this early exposure seem to influence the lighting and composition of his later work.

Following Are Just A Few Highlights In His Brilliant Career

1881–The Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid exhibited his paintings.

1884—He entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Valencia.

1888-He married Clotilde García del Castillo. His lifelong love, she modeled for many of his paintings.

1890-They created their home in Madrid where they had three children who also appear in several of his canvases. Despite living in Madrid, he returned yearly to Valencia where he painted prolifically.

From 1890, Sorolla’s career was a constant succession of important exhibitions and commissions. He exhibited across Europe, the United Staates, and Buenos Aires. confirming his status as a major international figure. By 1900, he could be considered as the most famous of all living Spanish artists.

1892–Another Marguerite won a gold medal at the National Exhibition in Madrid and  first prize at the Chicago International Exhibition.

1895– ‘Return from Fishing’ was exhibited at the Paris Salon. Consequently it was purchased by the French state. His reputation as an international artist was sealed.

1906-Georges Petit Gallery in Paris displayed 497 works.

1908— The prestigious Grafton Galleries in London held a large exhibition of his work

1909-A Joaquin Sorolla Exhibition was held at the Hispanic Society of America in New York. Despite bad weather, 159,831 visitors attended the show.

According to The New York Times (March 14,1909) “it was deemed the ‘most emphatic popular success ever known in the history of art in New York.”

1911-An exhibition was held at the Art Institute in Chicago and the City Art Museum in Saint Louis.

November 1911—Joaquin Sorolla received his most ambitious commission to date. It was from the Hispanic Society of America for a series of canvases depcting scenes from Spain, including costumes, festivals. The collection would be hung their library. The result was called ‘Vision of Spain.”

June, 1920-Joaquin Sorolla died while painting in his garden. The epic series he began painting in 1912 was installed after his death. He was given a heroes farewell and laid to rest in his hometown of Valencia.

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