Master Class: Sorolla's Light
It may be that the light in Spain reminds me of light in South Africa. It is bold and uncompromising. Light and dark dominates and seldom are there any misty greys to soften the effect. Since we are entering summer in this part of the world I felt that Sorolla's bold brushwork in this painting evoked the summer mood.
The painting above covers all that I love about Sorolla's painting. Although a tranquil scene we can sense that it was probably a scorching hot day. The cool shadows by the pond bringing some relief. The luminous water, bright reflections and value contrasts all work to illustrate the concept.
In particular the brushwork stands out. Sorolla's brushwork is confident and bold. He was known for assessing and placing his mark then leaving it alone. No blending and fussing which weakens a painting. One can appreciate that the brushwork creates a sensuous texture on the canvas. This is how oil paint should be used.
Reflected light fills the scene and is closely observed by the artist. Look at the lady's white dress - there is no white paint, but rather a series of greys to convey the shadows and indirect light.
We are also reminded to keep the paint in shadows thinner and transparent while laying it on thick in the brightly lit passages. Overall the harmony of light has been captured and rendered expressively. It is true that we need not worry about harmony if we follow nature's lead and depict colours accurately as they appear in nature. Values and harmony will look real on the canvas too.
We can all learn by studying masters like Sorolla and this should be part of a weekly process when you are in need of a break from painting.
I will be covering these techniques in more detail in my upcoming online workshops starting in January. More info.
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa