Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863-1923)
Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863-1923)

Pescador de quisquillas, Valencia

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863-1923)
Pescador de quisquillas, Valencia
signed 'J. Sorolla' (lower right)
oil on canvas
22½ x 30 7/8 cm. (57 x 78.5 cm.)
Painted in 1908.
Gift from the artist to Justo Bou, Buenos Aires.
Acquired from the above by Roque Freyre, Buenos Aires.
Anonymous sale; Durán, Madrid, 15 December 1972, lot 50 (3.500.000 pesetas).
Acquired by the present owner in February 2003.
B. de Pantorba, La Vida y la obra de Joaquín Sorolla. Estudio biográfico y Crítico, Madrid, 1970, p. 193, no. 1678.
London, Grafton Galleries, Exhibition of paintings by Señor Sorolla y Bastida, 4 May-4 July 1908, no. 243.
New York, The Hispanic Society of America, Paintings by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, 8 February - 8 March 1909, no. 70 (this exhibition subsequently travelled to Buffalo, Fine Arts Academy, and to Boston, Copley Society, until 11 May 1909).
Santiago de Chile, Exposición Internacional de Bellas Artes, 1910 (illustrated on front cover of the exhibition catalogue).
Buenos Aires, Institución cultural Española de Buenos Aires, Sorolla: Su obra en el arte español y sus obras en la Argentina, 16 November - 5 December 1942.
Valencia, Galeria Arts, Pintores del País Valenciano, 14 December 1973 - 18 January 1974, no. 41.

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Lot Essay

This extraordinarily expressive painting was once part of a larger composition (fig. 1), which Sorolla resized, reworked and resigned before gifting it to his friend Justo Bou. The larger composition was exhibited in London and in the United States, and the left fragment of the work was preserved by the artist (currently in a private collection). The reason for Sorolla's reworking of the original work is not clear, although it is important to note that Sorolla sometimes resized his compositions by either reducing or extending the original canvases (see lot 62). In this case, Sorolla appears to have been striving for the kind of photographic quality and intensity which characterised much of his work after 1910. Typically achieved by close cropping and zooming in on his subject, Sorolla has physically compressed the composition and painted out the background fisherman who remained after the canvas had been reduced in size, focusing all the attention on the single remaining figure.

The painting would appear to depict its subject in the waning light of the afternoon: the chromatic contrasts are muted compared to many of the artist's other works, although the brighter whites reflecting off the waves light hint clearly that the sun has not yet set. The composition is typically daring: ignoring classical conventions, Sorolla has eschewed a horizon line altogether, compressing the different planes of figure, sea and sand. The central figure is looking away from the viewer, his body bent forward as he walks; his momentum is set into strong relief by the contrast with the plunging verticals of the shrimping net he carries on his shoulder, and further emphasised by the downwards, raking perspective of the composition. Despite his unguarded pose, the fisherman has a strong physical presence and a pose which suggests strength and resilience. Combined with his rugged, weatherbeaten features, which are strongly set against the sea, and further highlighted by the pure, Velasquez-like white-on-black contrast between the hat and the waves, Sorolla has imbued his fisherman with an almost Homeric quality.

We are grateful to Blanca Pons-Sorolla for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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