JOHN POTOTSCHNIK FINE ART

The best plein air painter of all time?

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The rooms were softly lit and human voices were as whispers…distant and subdued…yet the sound was deafening. Despite the noise, there was present a prevailing sense of awe and respect…maybe even reverence. I was standing in the presence of greatness…a giant.

There in those softly lit rooms, at the Meadows Museum in Dallas, hung the illuminated works of Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, an artist of extraordinary brilliance.

"Children on the Seashore" - 38"x 51" - Oil (1903)

“Children on the Seashore” – 38″x 51″ – Oil (1903)

Sorolla painting children on the beach II

I had the privilege of enjoying the Sorolla exhibit with my wife, and with artist friend, David Griffin. You’ll be learning more of him in an upcoming blog post. However, being an artist himself, I appreciated his company, keen observation and sensitivity to nuances so wonderfully expressed through Sorolla’s brush. My wife on the other hand, being practical, down to earth, and not impressed by big names, was not enamored with everything Sorolla painted…as I pretty much am. Periodically, I would hear her say, “That’s just not clear, I would never buy that.”…as if we could!!!

"Oxen Study for 'Afternoon Sun'" - 38"x 54" - Oil (1903)

“Oxen Study for ‘Afternoon Sun'” – 38″x 54″ – Oil (1903)

sorolla -

"The Horse's Bath" - 81"x 98" - Oil (1909)

“The Horse’s Bath” – 81″x 98″ – Oil (1909)

Much could be said about Señor Sorolla’s work. If it’s true that paintings reflect an artist’s personality, then Sorolla’s sheer exuberance for life, family, and the joy of painting did not escape me.

His work exhibits massive confidence and knowledge, most evident in his drawing ability, risky compositions, and use of color. His paintings cannot be ignored for there is an authenticity and honesty that comes through with every stroke of the brush. He must have been a man of depth…bold and boisterous, while at the same time, sensitive and caring. In this regard, I was intrigued by his very tiny “painted notes”, some smaller than five inches, broadly and rapidly painted (probably in minutes) yet with his signature so sensitively and clearly signed that one almost needs a magnifying glass to decipher it.

"Another Marguerite" - 51"x 79" - Oil (1892)

“Another Marguerite” – 51″x 79″ – Oil (1892)…Gold Medal, National Exhibition in Madrid; First Place, Chicago International Exhibition

"Sad Inheritance" - 83"x 112" - Oil (1899)...Grand Prix and Medal of Honor at Universal Exhibition in Paris; Medal of Honor at National Exhibition in Madrid.

“Sad Inheritance” – 83″x 112″ – Oil (1899)…Grand Prix and Medal of Honor at Universal Exhibition in Paris; Medal of Honor at National Exhibition in Madrid.

When standing before any great work of art, in this case Sorolla’s, it’s sort of bitter sweet. Sweet, to see such amazing work and to marvel that one can have such incredible talent and ability. Bitter, in that it’s a very harsh reality check when confronted with one’s own lack of knowledge and ability. Do any of you artists ever feel that way?

Just a partial view of the 14 murals Sorolla produced en plein air for the series "The Vision of Spain", now installed in the New York Hispanic Society of America.

Just a partial view of the 14 murals Sorolla produced en plein air for the series “The Vision of Spain”, now installed in the New York Hispanic Society of America.

Those of us that occasionally paint en plein air understand what it takes to create just a small study on site. Compare that with the jaw-dropping work Sorolla created en plein air. Consider the 14 massive murals he produced depicting several Spanish provinces…14 feet in height, totaling an incredible 227 feet. What is that, just over two football fields? All, en plein air mind you. If there are ever any allusions of personal greatness, this knowledge alone should bring us back to our senses. Right now, I’m feeling pretty small.

Dear readers: For whom would you cast your vote as greatest plein air painter?

 

Meadows Museum

 

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Scheduled Workshops for 2014

 22-24 May  –  Dahlonega, GA

20-22 June  –  Lowell, MI

18-20 September  –  Jackson, MS

1-3 October  –  Portland, ME

 (For details on each of these workshops, please click HERE)

 

John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE
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