It’s been a while since my last post, nearly four months to the day. (Thank you to MG for getting me going again).
When I learned that the Spanish Impressionist painter Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863 – 1923) was sometimes called ‘the Spanish Sargent’, I understood why I was drawn to this painting, Lighthouse Walk at Biarritz: John Singer Sargent is one of my favorite artists (earlier posts I’ve done about his work are here and here).
This painting, an oil on canvas completed in 1906, lives at the MFA in Boston. According the museum’s web site, it’s not currently on display and I honestly can’t remember if it caught my eye when it was on display at some point (if indeed it ever was) when I lived in Boston and visited the museum on a regular basis, or if I’ve only ever seen it on the postcard I bought in the museum’s gift shop, and which now sits on my desk as I write this post.
Both Sorolla and Sargent used bold brush strokes and were masters of color, and of depicting the play of light in various settings. Sorolla showed off those talents to greatest effect in his many paintings of people enjoying the seaside in his native Valencia. In this painting, I absolutely love the light coming through the parasol held by the woman at the far left; we can’t see the sun in the sky, but the shadow the woman casts, and that glow on the underside of her parasol tell us it’s there. And I love the bursts of color adorning the otherwise white and neutral-toned attire.
Biarritz is on the Atlantic coast of France, in its Basque region, just a few miles from the Spanish border, and the lighthouse, or Phare, that this quintet was no doubt on its way to visit sits at its northernmost point. I found myself looking at present day photos of Biarritz’ coastal stretches to see if I could find one showing the rock formation that’s poking out of the water in the painting; in some images I can convince myself it’s still there, albeit in wave-battered, time-altered form.
Trivia tidbit: The ladies in the painting would surely never have dreamed that, in the mid-1950’s, Biarritz would become a destination for world-class surfers. It remains so to this day: the International Surfing Association’s World Surfing Games were held there just this past May.