When I was but a young thing, my parents took us on a tour of London. We lived close enough to the Smoke to visit for days on the train. We saw the Tutankhamen exhibition and whilst I don’t remember exhibits clearly, I remember the feel – dim lighting, golds, reds and browns and mysterious objects. I haven’t been back to an exhibition since and never to an art exhibition, until yesterday. So it was rather fitting that King Tut was back in town but in contrast, yesterday was all about the LIGHT.
Sorolla:Spanish Master of Light
I have recently come to love the paintings of Sorolla, he was a major influence in the work of Dan McCaw who is my all time favourite living artist so to see his paintings at the National Gallery was very exciting. Sorolla is known for the way he paints light into his scenes so I was a little worried that I might be disappointed compared to what I had seen on-line. Actually, the digital imagery of the web seems to me to be a truer representation than many images in books, but there are still differences in the casts and quality etc.
I wasn’t disappointed, I was enthralled! There were wonderfully curated in spaces that moved you through different aspects of his work and life and to see them ‘up close and personal’ was enlightening (pardon the pun) in many ways. To see faces painted in detail and other areas with broader brushstrokes, to see the size of them such as ‘Sewing the Sail’ and ‘The Return from Fishing’, and consider how busy and quiet spaces and line were all used was delightful. There is so much accessible material on the web, including this 45 minute video of the exhibition. You might want to scroll back later when you have a bit of time.
Here are just a couple of my personal thoughts.
Sewing the Sail is utterly magical. The way the diagonals lead you up the centre to the half-closed door and the chair, keeping you in the ‘room’ but leading your gaze to a glimpse of the sea at the same time. If you know me, you will know my love of the vertical line and here it seems partly what they do is echo the masts and mirror the lifting of the sail in order to sew it. it’s the sort of painting you have to look at a long time…
In the gallery, ‘Another Marguerite!’ was placed next to this, the other side of an entrance way. But viewed side by side, what struck me was not only the compelling story but the contrast of light.
Here, this light is only coming from the tiny windows, but you can see from the reflected light on the far wall that there are more. The falling patch of light on the right lights a different bench, not hers, she’s set apart as it were with a small area of light on her face perhaps to show that there is still goodness or love within despite the crime she has been accused of.
Here again, Sorolla is using light:
His son’s face in full light, the daughter in the middle in half shadow and the youngest with just a touch on her face. Perhaps a statement about sibling order.
In this painting, ‘They Still Say Fish is Expensive’, I had time to consider just how reminiscent of the wounded Christ it is.
It seems to me there are references everywhere, the wound, the laying on of hands, the bowl of washing water, the fish, the lamp on the post suggesting the Light of the World, and the fire. Only in seeing the painting can you see the tiny couple of embers still there – life almost extinguished.
Sorolla has a real ability to create presence, described as ‘psychological penetration’. I think you can see this in his self-portraits, the first of which was on display. The full painting sets a horizontal line across eye height drawing your attention yet more forcefully.
And a couple of paintings I really enjoy:
The White Boat
Setting out to Sea (not in the exhibition but just wonderful).
Chihuly: Reflections on Nature
A very different afternoon at Kew Gardens, with a beautiful day and sunshine bringing Chihuly’s sculptures alive.
Again, you can find so many images to look at on the web and many of you will have already seen his work, so here are just a few from my point of view:
Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower set beside a natural little tower I spotted!
Fiori Verdi and in monochrome below to celebrate all the natural and sculptural forms – the exhibition is called ‘Reflections on nature’ after all!
Red, yellow and blue…
I noticed the reflections particularly in the lily pond, and saw them in some of the pieces inside…
No surprises that I particularly liked the Black Walnut Basket Quartet…
The lighting indoors was exquisite.
And finally, I was very taken with his sketches, this one was particularly full of energy!
I do hope you’ve sensed my delight in it all and despite all the photos here, there’s plenty more to see if you get the opportunity.
3 thoughts on “Lights, camera, action!”
Thank you so much for this. I did not know Sorolla and the Chihuly pictures reminded me of a visit to Kew many years ago when I saw, and loved, his work.
Thank you. Yes quite a few of my friends saw his work then but I never have.
A lovely post. I’m i London next month and hoping to see the NG Sorolla. Quite excited now!