|Sevilla, The Dance by Joaquín Sorolla, 1914, oil. Courtesy the Hispanic Society of America,
New York, New York.
This is one of the 14 large-scale paintings included in the panoramic Vision of Spain mural
During a dinner conversation among artists last May at the National Arts Club, in New York City, Everett Raymond Kinstler was among the esteemed company, and he kept everyone engaged with his entertaining stories of artists past and present. When Kinstler speaks, everyone listens, as he has been a successful illustrator and fine artist for more than 50 years, and his career has been full of encounters with some of this generation’s greatest artistic and cultural icons.
One of the stories he shared involved a visit he made to Madrid about 30 years ago, during which he visited the grandson of a great Spanish painter from the turn of the 20th century. The grandson explained to Kinstler that his grandfather suffered a stroke shortly before the end of his life and lost part of his memory. After his hospital stay, the artist’s children took him home to his studio where he was surrounded by dozens of his colorful, vibrant paintings. Staring at the paintings in amazement, the artist asked, “Who painted these?” His children responded, “Papa, it was you.” Unable to comprehend that he was the one who had created these magnificent works of art, the man wept. That artist was Joaquín Sorolla, and several of the paintings he was looking at were from his monumental Vision of Spain mural.
I recently had the pleasure of seeing those and other Sorolla works at the Hispanic Society of America, in New York City, and as I pondered these sun-drenched scenes filled with Sorolla’s signature sense of light, I couldn’t help but think that this was an artist who truly found an authentic style. He broke the mold from other painters of his day and combined his appreciation of both naturalistic and academic approaches, the influence of Velázquez, and his love of light and color to arrive at a style that surpassed much of what happened before or after him.
Sorolla was definitely an artist who knew how to promote and position himself in the art market, but at the end of the day he painted for himself and was more concerned with finding his own voice than with pleasing patrons, collectors, or critics. Although near the end of his life he was unable to recognize the work of his own hand, the undeniable reality is that because he stayed true to himself, his paintings have survived as a testament to the skill, strength, and spirit of his unique artistic vision.
We know that an artist’s work will live on in some capacity after he or she is gone. It may not hang in museums next to Sorolla or Velázquez, but it will certainly be seen and remembered by someone. If you’re painting for yourself and not another’s idea of who or what you should be, your work will unfailingly strike a chord with others, because artistic expression that is authentic always rings true and always endures.
Allison Malafronte is the senior editor of American Artist.