Joaquín Sorolla – the classic of the Spanish impressionism

Oct 10, 2019 | Essays in English, Spanish fine arts

Joaquín Sorolla (1863 – 1923) is a Spanish painter, an amazing brush master. He is the most renowned, most known and most beloved representative of the Spanish impressionism not only in Spain but also beyond.

He was born in Valencia, in the large family of a merchant. His father died of cholera when he was only two years old and a relative of his mother took care for his family.

His life was completely dedicated to art, he walked his path consistently and worthily, without any personal and professional turbulences.

His artistic talent Joaquín manifested very early. Nine years old, he started taking private lessons in his hometown. At the age of eleven he went to Madrid, where he became fascinated by the collection of the Prado Museum.

After the military service, Joaquín received a scholarship to study fine arts in Rome. During his studies in Italy he managed to visit France as well, getting acquainted with the work of the French impressionists.

In 1888, he returned to Valencia. Immediately afterwards, in the spirit of the Spanish tradition, he created a family with Clotilde García del Castillo, whom he met several years before that in her father’s studio.

The Joaquin’s love for Clotilde perpetuated in their three children Mary, Joaquin and Elena, and in her numerous portraits, painted with tenderness, and with already rare in modern couples adoration.

In the first ten years of his artistic path Joaquín painted mainly works of historical, mythological and social themes, which he presented in Madrid, Paris, Venice, Munich, Berlin and Chicago.

The first convincing confession comes with his painting Another Marguerite, for which in 1892 he received a gold medal at the National Exhibition in Madrid and again a gold medal at the International Art Exhibition in Chicago. At this exhibition the picture was purchased and donated to the Washington University Museum in St. Louis, Missouri.

The next success is his picture The Return from Fishing, which was greeted with rapture in 1894 in the Salon de Paris and was bought by the Museum of Luxembourg. This is a huge recognition for the artistic mastery of the young Joaquín Sorolla.

He’s an impressionist to the core of his bones. It’s his very style. He captures the light in all its manifestations. He uses the colours in a divine way.

Uniquely white, gentle and with so many different shades, which may not have caught any other artist. This is in fact the Renaissance white, triumphant and captivating, as in the works of Rubens and Michelangelo, but very modern, very catchy, used in huge quantities. In an incredible way, white is mixed with blue, pink, yellow, without losing its strength and its harshness. The paintings of Joaquín Sorolla simply emit light, they themselves are source of light.

The way he works with the brush is typical of the mature impressionism, flowing to post impressionism. His ointment is confident and convincing. In some pictures, the brush strokes are large and wavy, leaving the impression of strength and harshness. Sometimes I get the feeling that this man just didn’t have enough lifetime physically to paint all of what he had seen and what he was wearing in himself. Perhaps for the great talent life is always short…

Purely technically and professionally, the other, which is very typical for Joaquín Sorolla, is the knowledge of all the secrets of the human body. Extremely natural and human-speaking postures – male and female, children and adults in mature and old age. Ordinary people – peasants, fishermen, farmers, and noble people with a completely different lifestyle and everyday life.

All of them are painted in their most typical and natural postures. Without a surplus and without a bust. Indeed, there is something Renaissance in the extent that he knows and recreates the anatomy of the human body. Another unique feature of his art is the combination of technique with the power of emotion. Typical Spanish, definitely. I can’t look without an excitement of a human figure painted by Joaquin.

His creativity is so powerful from the artistic point of view (he is perfect in everything he has left), so varied as a subject and so voluminous as the number and size of his works, that if he had not died so young (only sixty years old), he would deservedly be called the “patriarch” of the Spanish impressionism.

Undoubtedly, Joaquín Sorolla  is the classic of the Spanish impressionism.

I choose to show you one of my favourite pictures of him – “The pier of San Sebastian”.

San Sebastian is located on the shores of the Bay of Biscay, on the Atlantic Ocean. The water accumulates the power of the ocean and this is felt in the local climate and in the picture.

There is hardly another artist who has painted works depicting life and nature from so many different regions of Spain. Joaquín Sorolla is truly in love with his homeland, naturally, without posture and without overdoing.

In the picture the sky is gloomy, and the sea is stormy. The clouds are worn over the water, and the waves are flowing with colossal power to the shore. Do you feel the energy of the ocean? The air is ozonated and dense. The waves hit one after the other from the pier. They come back and move again, leaving thousands of small splashes in the air.

Several men and women are standing on the pier, some of them with their children. They seem bold and calmly observing the sea, but in any case, they approached their bodies, pushing to each other.

The coast on the opposite side anxiously holds the blows of the waves as if protecting people from distress.

What an incredibly strong conversation between nature and man!

You will find the painting of Joaquín Sorolla here in Wikiart.