While driving home from seeing the exhibition, Sorolla and America, at the Meadows Museum in Dallas, we discussed the artist's phenomenally rapid rise from young art student to one of the most famous painters in the world at the time.
|Old Garden of the Alcazar in Seville by Sorolla, 1910.|
Granted, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida was born with an outstanding talent, but talent isn't usually enough. Painting is a craft, and the importance of good training cannot be overstated. Fortunately, his enthusiasm for drawing and learning how to paint was noticed by his foster parents early on, and they saw to it that he received special art instruction. It is interesting to note that although Sorolla was also trained as a locksmith – his foster father's trade – he was not pressured to remain a locksmith. Instead, he was offered better art schooling which led to winning a competition to study in Rome. From there, he worked extremely hard to take advantage of every opportunity to win the international prizes and recognition which eventually made him famous enough to be an independent artist. If he hadn't received encouragement, support and a first-class art education, his natural talent may not have been enough to make him the exceptional painter he became.
In his prime, Sorolla pushed painting beyond the known and accepted limits of the era into a new world of expressive possibilities. No one else painted like him. This exhibition underscores that remarkable fact.
Today, unfortunately, a good art education isn't a priority in many of our schools. Why this should be so makes neither social nor economic sense. Many in our culture consider art to be just a pastime, an entertainment, an unnecessary luxury and that false perception makes the arts an easy budget target to eliminate.
The reality is that the arts are a huge economic engine that contributes over a billion dollars of growth to our national GDP every year. But even more importantly, if there are fewer art teachers, what will happen to all the young talents out there? How will they learn their craft? Who will encourage and inspire them? There may be another young Sorolla, bursting with talent, energy and ideas, but frustrated by the lack of interest in supporting what he or she can do.
Over half of the artists we have interviewed for The Artist's Road report that they had someone around them who was a strong influence in encouraging their interest in art at an early age. The answer to those budget cuts is that all of us must take up the educational slack in any way we can. We must be available to those young people who need encouragement or guidance and instruction in our communities. It is surprising how easy it is to start a little fire.
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–John and Ann