Impressionism

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863 – 1923)

The white boat, Javea – Joaquín Sorolla

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863 – 1923), a post-impressionist artist from Spain, who had two passions in his life – his family and his art.

He began to study painting at the age of fifteen in his native Valencia, Spain. At the age of eighteen, he went to Madrid, where he copied Old Master paintings in the Museo del Prado. Four years later, Sorolla won a grant to study painting in Rome; there he developed a distinct ability for depicting the effects of light. 

When Sorolla returned to Madrid, his paintings were in great demand. Most of his pictures were painted in from four to six mornings, many in one or two.

He painted very, very fast. “I could not paint at all if I had to paint slowly,” he once said. “Every effect is so transient, it must be rapidly painted.” In the studio Sorolla would sometimes use a palette the size of a grand piano lid and 3 foot long brushes to allow him to stand back from his painting.

In terms of colour, from about 1900 onwards for outdoor work (as opposed to studio portraits) Sorolla’s palette consisted of cobalt violet, rose madder, all the cadmium reds, cadmium orange, all the cadmium yellows, yellow ochre, chrome green, viridian, Prussian blue, cobalt blue, French ultramarine and lead white. 

For studio portraits, he changed his palette entirely to one that included black, burnt umber, raw umber, rose madder, burnt sienna, raw sienna, yellow ochre, Naples yellow, vermilion and cobalt blue. Occasionally Sorolla would add orange, pink or purple, but he usually emphasized strong tonal contrasts over ambitious color effects.

Sorolla’s widow left a large collection of his paintings to the people of Spain. The collection is now a museum, the Museo Sorolla, in the artist’s house in Madrid.

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