Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida was known as the painter of sunlight.
His versatility was terrific, but it is a versatility of the senses rather than the mind. It did not make much difference to what he painted, providing there were colour and light in the subject. He painted the head of a peasant with the same care that he painted the head of a President, a King, a Princess, a Duchess or and Ambassador.
New York Exhibition 1909
In 1909, his New York exhibition drew 160,000 visitors. Respected art critics at the time called him the greatest Spanish master since Velazquez and Goya. He was commissioned to do a portrait of President William Taft. He was prolific, his first Paris show included more than 400 works, and reading about his life becomes a relentless, energetic show after another. When he died in 1923, he left about 4000 paintings and twice as many drawings. His house in Madrid was turned into a Museum.
Passion for the outdoors
Sorolla, the virile Spanish artist, was happiest when he was painting outdoors in blazing sunlight. Painting children by the seashore, fisherman and fisherwomen, peasants and vivid landscapes.
His outdoor pictures are all dazzling. An ordinary picture placed beside one of these pieces would seem faded. Sorolla has been called an impressionist, but he certainly was not dependent for his luminosity on blues and purples. He added beautiful effects of light using yellows, ochres, brilliant reds and silvery greys. And he did not hesitate to use pure white when it served his purpose.
Peasant Birth – lover of life
Sorolla was of peasant birth, and he was a great admirer of Bastien. Lepage, the eminent French artist, who was also the son of peasants and many see a strong resemblance between the two. This was because of their heritage and because they both liked to paint peasant life. Sorolla, however, was an artist whom the joy of life pulsates. He loves health and strength and positive colours. Sorolla’s many fans were astonished at the speed that which he worked. Those who watched him paint exclaimed that his pace was “demonical.”
Sorolla described his uninhibited lusty, slapping on of paint, as “Making Love.” His every painting is a record of his feelings, of the choreography of his arm as he pushed and pulled the form into existence. The strokes look so fresh and fluid that it seems as if the painter has just stepped away.
Art has no business dealing with the sad and the ugly
Though he had depicted historical dramas in his youth, Sorolla came to feel that art had no business dealing with the sad and the ugly. Critics who agreed said he was an antidote for the “depressionists.”
“The thing I like always is the sun'” he said his best works are the interactions of the rays of the afternoon sun and some physical activity such as oxen hauling boats with billowing sails up onto a beach. The glistening wet, sun-soaked natural scene was the perfect vehicle for joyous turmoil of his brushstrokes.