Last week, I took the train up to London to visit the Sorolla exhibition and it was truly an inspiration.
A few times a year I make the effort to go and see exhibitions outside of my locality, usually in London, often at the National or the RA or the Tate. And this Spring saw me heading back to my old favourite the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square to see the Sorolla exhibition.
Sorolla is Spanish, working at a time after Goya and before Picasso was famous. He has the weight of Velezquez on his shoulders, along with more than a passing hint of English portraiture influenced by Sargent. He had 19th Century realism and early 20th century impressionism at his fingertips. He was brilliant. And yet I know nearly nothing about him before I went.
Something I have always admired about the Spanish painters and something that I've never managed to conquer myself is the use of black and red! Spaniards can use black brilliantly. When I use black it sucks all the energy out of the painting when a Spaniard uses black it adds drama and creates atmosphere. The room with the portraiture had echoes of Velasquez all around it.
But this exhibition was entitled Spanish master of light. Where is the light?
The light took my breath away. The monumental painting" The return from fishing" was a sight to behold. I stood and sketched it, I love sketching in exhibitions, but sometimes it's difficult to do when there are loads of people. But it's always worth it. Sketching improves our art but it also improves our eye. I loved this painting all the more for my experience of trying to capture just an essence of it in my sketchbook
In the same room, another monumental painting was "Sewing the sail" People literally gasped when they saw it.
I could feel the mediterranean sun.
Sun so bright it blinds you.
It was truly glorious. No amount of photos can do these justice. This one was taken from a double page in the exhibition catalogue. It merely gives an an idea. I could have stared at it for hours.
When presented with such mastery of light in oil painting, sometimes written notes in my sketchbook became as important as the sketch.
When studying "The pink robe" I found myself utterly transfixed by how realistic and well painted the figures were, yet close-up the brush stokes were broad, the paint thick and unctuous. I kept going up close then retreating back. My notes remind me, when back in the studio "don't be afraid of huge brush strokes"
There was so much there, I haven't even touched on "The vision of Spain", or his beach paintings, or his story telling. There's only one way to really get inspired by Sorolla; go and see it for yourself.
I think you might just see an influence in a few of my next oil paintings!
The exhibition runs until the 7th July 2019 and you can click on this link to book tickets.www.nationalgallery.co.uk/products/sorolla-spanish-master-of-light/p_TICKETSOROLLA#_ga=2.52052526.686552753.1554474039-1457854920.1554474039
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