I get asked all the time, who is your favourite artist, who influences your work.
I have always said that I don’t have favourites in anything.
And I don’t.
I don’t have a favourite colour, pen, paint brush, flower, food, drink, tree, friend, child even, you get the picture and I have always chosen not to single out any one item as a favourite. But I do have things I favour. So, I favour raspberries over rhubarb, I favour some artists over others and I favour bright colours over dark, or do I?
I am however excited to add Sorolla to my collection of artists I favour.
Joaquin Sorolla: Sorolla and Fashion – Pallant Bookshop
I was persuaded to join a friend in visiting the Sorolla exhibition at the National Gallery, London. I will happily admit I had never heard of the man and doubted that it would be worth going.
So much so, that I persuaded my friend that we should visit the Bonnard exhibition at the Tate Modern afterwards, as I wanted to finish the day on a high, so to speak.
Well I couldn’t have been more wrong, the Sorolla was so good that Bonnard almost paled in comparison, which was wrong of me, as he is such a brilliant artist. In fact, they are both great, but the two, I believe, should not be viewed on the same day, or if they are, you need to be aware of the differences.
Sorolla is all about light which he uses in such a way as to make you feel as if you are there on a hot sunny day in Spain. Bonnard is all about the use of colour, the subtle use of colour against colour.
As the viewer you need to consider this before you go and see them both. Think about what you personally are attracted to.
It helps to be aware of what it is about art that you enjoy most before you visit so that you understand what you are going to be looking at, that way I think you will enjoy both exhibitions to the full.
They call him the Spanish master of light and they couldn’t be more accurate. From the moment we stepped into the first room this mans work just shone off the walls.
The painting of his daughter Elena in a yellow dress with the light on her face, fingers and dress are beautifully captured. Also, in the first room are other portraits, one is of his son, as well as a self-portrait, all of which use light brilliantly and, something which I love in portraiture is that all their eyes follow you around the room.
Not all of his work is beautiful, some of it is very troubling, the sick crippled children on the beach and the woman accused of killing her child, have really stuck with me as emotional and/or unhappy pieces, but the most notable point is, these sad images have stuck with me. To produce work which insights so much emotion is without doubt the sign of a master.
For me the fishermen bringing home the catch is the most intriguing piece and one that I could have sat and viewed for hours. Every little detail of sun and shade is produced with mastery. The piece is huge so if anything were out of place it would show up, but everything is spot on.
Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923) – Exhibition – Museo Nacional del Prado
Bonnard is clearly a master too, French, and living at the same time as Sorrola, his work is very understated in comparison but is made beautiful through his ingenious use of subtle colours and his depictions of the mundane; some of which he worked on for years. He would make notes about a scene and the colours from it, occasionally taking photographs but mainly working from memory produced in his studio. There he worked on numerous canvases simultaneously, tacking them to the walls of his small studio so that he had more freedom to express his work without giving boundaries to work within.
The C C Land Exhibition: Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory
Bonnard painted landscapes, urban scenes, portraits and intimate domestic scenes. The colours the backgrounds and painting style typically took precedence over the subject.
These often-complex scenes are narrative but also autobiographical.
Apart from being a painter he was also an illustrator and a printmaker. He was also the founding member of the Post-Impressionist group of avant-garde painters ‘Les Nabis’ and he was a leading figure in the transition from impressionism to modernism.
Coffee’, Pierre Bonnard, 1915| Tate
In conclusion, I would advice anyone interested in art to visit both exhibitions. Armed with the knowledge that they are very different and with a little appreciation for what your own tastes are, you will, I think enjoy both exhibitions far more.
Neither is better than the other, both are brilliant in their own way. But if you love gentle pictures with subtle clever use of colour, see the Sorolla first.
If you love light and portraiture which feels real and direct visit Bonnard first.
That way you will enjoy both but finish your day on a high and probably enjoy both more.
The interesting thing for me is that I love colour. I had thought that I would enjoy the Bonnard far more than the Sorolla. I now realise that whilst I still love colour, I also really love the use of light and dark along side the colour. Both exhibitions have helped me see my art in a different way and I can see a new direction for me to take in my work. Exciting times for me and I could not favour one over the other.
If you visit one or both of these exhibitions, I would love to hear your thoughts.
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Please note, all photographs have been copied from the internet. I have attempted to get permission to use them and as yet have not been contacted.
My understanding of the copy-write rules is that where I am promoting the work to the benefit of the owners, I am not in breach of any rules. No doubt if my understanding of that rule/law is wrong, someone will tell me and if needs be I will remove said images.