From the name of the museum you might expect it to be a community center for the numerous Dominicans that live in the neighborhood. But actually it is filled with art, books and historical objects from Spain, Portugal and Latin America--including a few paintings by master artists El Greco and Velazquez.
On this visit our mission was to take a look at the highlight of the museum: their collection of exquisite light-filled paintings by Joaquín Sorolla (Spanish, 1863-1923). Here is my interpretation of a few of the fascinating things Sam told us as he led us through the galleries.
Apparently Sorolla was obsessed with the idea of painting sunlight. And he succeeded with heart-stoppingly beautiful results. Sam said that the reason Sorolla is in a league so much higher than other artists isn't because of his astounding technique, but because he painted with love. But what does that mean?
To me it means that Sorolla was enchanted by his subject--the sunlight and the people of Spain. But not only that, he was tuned in and paying close attention. Every color, from the highest highlights to the darkest shadows and everything in between was profoundly observed and recorded directly from nature. There isn't a single solitary brushstroke or tiny corner of his canvas that he painted in his sleep. No sir, he was never lazy, never took the easy way out. And he worked standing up on the beach in the sun for hours on end. While wearing a suit.
Details, Details, Details
But this doesn't mean that Sorolla painted every little eyelash, leaf, or grain of sand, or that he brought every last inch of his compositions to a highly polished finish. As explained in my previous post here, landscape painters leave some parts of their paintings in expressionism, and some in impressionism--while the center of interest is taken into realism with the most emphasis, refinement and details.
For example, take a look at the top of Sorolla's mural painting "The Fish, Catalonia" (click on the image to see a larger version). You can see that the trees and foliage are painted loosely, with bold strokes of color, and without many branches or individual leaves (expressionist). Moving down vertically to the middle of the painting there is a crowd of people. Their clothing and faces have more definition than the trees do, but the planes of light and shade are still painted broadly (impressionist). The part of the composition with the highest contrast, sharpest edges and the most detailed work is in the people and baskets of fish at the bottom front row (realist). That's where your eyes gravitate to, and that's exactly what Sorolla intended.
This is just a taste of the many marvelous things that Sam shared with us that day. I couldn't possibly fit them all into one post. What a rich and wonderful trip!