“ A painter!.. Nothing other than a painter!.. I have never wanted to be, do not want to be and will never be anything other than a painter.” Joaquin Sorolla Bastida.
Of course he became much more than a creative and masterful painter. His paintings and humanity left a legacy inspiring future generations of painters. His art was steeped with compassion and empathy for the less fortunate in society, in so doing, changed the way later artists approached the spirit of their work. One can feel the warmth and kindness emanating from the canvas, his narratives, portraits and landscapes electrically filled with emotion.
I discovered art late in life, standing in the doorway of my wife’s beginning painting class. Peering in, watching a frenzy of brushwork and color, from that moment I knew I wanted to learn to paint. I familiarized myself with the art world and its more modern trends after visiting galleries and museums. I started learning about contemporary art. Installation, found object, performance, conceptual, environmental the list goes on, as there are no limits to the way artists can express their ideas. Still I fell more in love with oil paint, seduced by its beauty and sincerity. One strives to paint, at least at first, like painters you admire and whose work you enjoy. For me it was the great masters of the early 20th century. Sargent, Sorolla, Whistler, Zorn, Henri (and the ashcan school).
It was no surprise that on a trip to Madrid The Museo Sorolla was high on my list of places to see. So after checking into our hotel off the Gran Via, my wife, my daughter and I trekked off to find the Museo Sorolla. The Museum is preserved intact, as it was during Sorolla’s time. It was his home and studio and by all accounts he was actively involved in its design and construction. It is on an unassuming street in a residential neighborhood and only after asking several people where it was (finally a kind women googled it on a mobile phone), did we discover we were standing almost right in front of it.
Walking into the museum you pass through beautiful gardens with Moorish elements. Sorolla created these gardens with their mosaics, fountains, pools and sculptures copying these details from paintings and drawing during trips to Seville and Granada.
The museum’s collection consists of paintings the artist kept in his possession his entire life, clearly having special meaning to him and his family. I had seen many of his paintings in shows in and around New York (the Hispanic Society, The Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim had a turn of the century show which had one of his paintings prominently displayed). Walking into the home, seeing the majestic loving portraits of Clotilde his wife, the touching social realism paintings and dramatic landscapes of Museo Sorolla, were all inspiring. Then I walked into his studio.
Preserved as it was over 100 years ago, his brushes in a Talavera ceramic, his palette and easel resting in the corner. One can imagine Sorolla standing at his easel thoughtfully mixing paint on his palette. You feel the overwhelming presence of genius.
Those of us who have found joy in the art and craft of placing pigments on a surface are fortunate to be part of a community dating back to the dawn of mankind (there are rock paintings in Africa that date back 80,000 years). It matters not if you are professional or student, master or in the process of becoming one. It is membership in a very special club. A circle sharing that humble dream Joaquin Sorolla spoke of, so honestly, one hundred years ago.
ARTICLE BY BRUCE PALY