Posted by Maggie
Today we visited the museum of the Hispanic Society of America, having heard that the large paintings by Sorolla had been re-installed.
Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) was a Spanish painter whose work I have long admired for his handling of natural light on the subject. While I don't often paint the subjects he painted—figures, boats, etc.—I am inspired by the way he handles the light falling on and describing the subject. Part of my inspiration for my "sunlight and shadow" underpainting technique which I teach in workshops (and illustrated in my book, Painting with Pastels) came from observation of Sorolla's handling of light and shadow— that objects he painted in full sunlight tended to be warm yellows and oranges, while objects in shadow almost always contained some blue.
on the Internet to enjoy them. But even with these poor images, you can see some of the wonderful color he used to describe light. In this photo at left (The Tuna Catch), the men on the far right are clearly dressed in white, but when you study the painting, you see that no white paint was used. The lights are described in pale yellows and oranges; the shadows are blues and lavenders, with bits of orange indicating reflected light. The only true white in this painting appeared to be the sparkles on the water.
One of these was his portrait of Louis Comfort Tiffany, painted in Tiffany's garden at his home. A little later, the curator of the gallery was preparing a presentation on a painting by Goya (which we attended and very much enjoyed) and, while waiting for the audience to arrive, he talked a little about the Sorollas. He pointed out that in this painting of Tiffany, there are only two areas of pure white paint: on the right sleeve of Tiffany's shirt, and on the edge of the sail in the harbor. All the other areas interpreted as white have color—Impressionistic color, he called it.
After our visit to the Hispanic Society museum, we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a few hours. It was truly visual overload, and by late afternoon, I could not absorb any more. I love the Met, and took the time to visit my favorite paintings there—but I think I will dream of the Sorollas.