Dawn Whitelaw
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Painting In View

"There is nothing truer than the truth. All the mistakes created by great artists are due to their having separated from the truth, believing that their imagination is stronger... there is nothing stronger than nature...with nature in front of us we can do everything well." Sorolla

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, Spanish, 1863-1923, a painter held in the highest esteem by painters, but not known at all by the general public. He is seemingly so obscure that I never saw his name mentioned in an art history textbook during 30 years teaching painting at a university. Everett Raymond Kinstler first introduced me to Sorolla. Kinstler first saw the Sorollas at the Hispanic Society at the age of sixteen and says he was "stunned." At a time when Sorolla was not known at all, Kinstler routinely took his students from the Art Students League to the Hispanic Society to see Sorolla’s work. There are books on Sorolla available, but the originals are not easily found in museums in the US. The best place to see the paintings is in his homeland.

At the end of a two-week painting trip to Spain I had the opportunity to visit the Museo Sorolla in Madrid. I expected to see some originals of course, but was not prepared for the sheer numbers of the originals housed there, finished paintings, unfinished paintings and numerous sketches in pencil and oil.

Many of the sketches were done as studies for larger works but most were done just to study, to learn, to experiment. It became apparent just how impeccable his draftsmanship really was. What a treat to see these sketches. Sorolla was constantly studying, analyzing, recording bits of information to be used in the larger pieces. It’s no wonder that his paintings have such a "ring of truth"

As inspirational as the finished paintings were Sorolla’s sketches and unfinished paintings were more instructive. In the unfinished pieces you could begin to see his thought process -his working methods. Here, clearly seen, in these huge loose paintings there were these "anchors" of perfect draftsmanship. There would be salient points deliberately marked with a dark accent value that gave form and structure to the bold brushwork.

Sorolla’s influence on Kinstler was evident both in the dynamics of composition and the commitment to painting within a middle-value range. The principles that Kinstler teaches were clearly demonstrated in these paintings. Both Sorolla’s and Kinstler’s paintings seem flooded with light. Upon close examination of the value, I am always surprised to see how dark the lights are and how light the darks are. Other painters, such as Scott Christensen teach this principle of holding lights and darks in reserve to create a maximum effect.

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