The present work is the first of an important series of paintings, dating from the 1890s, depicting the fishermen of Sorolla's native Valencia. Among these is the celebrated Pescadores comiendo en la barca (Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes, San Fernando).
The lives of these hardy fishermen was a subject of great interest to the young artist, and in the present work Sorolla gives particular emphasis to the central figure, immersed in his work as he peels potatoes in the shade of the boat's sail, whilst beached at low tide. By sharply cropping the edges of the painting, thereby revealing only the central portion of the boat, Sorolla not only creates an innovative vantage point from which to view the subject, but he also creates a sense of almost photographic immediacy. By focusing so tightly on the central figure, Sorolla emphasises the shapes and planes of colour surrounding the sitter, such as the strong diagonal of the boat's mast and rigging, the triangular shape of the yellow sail and the contrast of light and shade on the boat's deck.
This simple scene is captured with quick, lively brushstrokes. While he admired the work of the French Impressionists, Sorolla's pictorial language with which he depicted the sun and sea was unique, and he was to develop this throughout the rest of his career.
We are grateful to Blanca Pons Sorolla for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.
Blanca Pons Sorolla will include this work in her forthcoming Sorolla catalogue raisonné.