Sorolla: A Master of Color and Value

My dear friend and teacher Everett Raymond Kinstler was a student of the great painter Gordon Stevenson (1892-1982).  Stevenson studied with both John Singer Sargent and Joaquin Sorolla. While in Spain working with the great master artist, Stevenson was amazed at the clarity of color and mastery of value that came from the artist’s brush.  
Sorolla taught that good color comes from good value and a SIMPLE palette.  
All too often we tend to think good color comes from the shelves of the local art store and the dozens of colors that are at our disposal.  A friend reminded me recently of the simplicity of Sorolla’s palette:  
Zink white, Yellow Ochre, Seville Red Earth, Rose Madder, Ivory Black, Cassell Earth (Brown).  
Remember…good color comes from good value, color harmony, and a simple palette!
7 Responses to Sorolla: A Master of Color and Value
  1. Laurel Alanna McBrine

    I started making a copy of this painting after seeing it at an exhibit in Paris. Sorolla has some breathtaking pieces, very inspirational.

    I have felt at a loss trying to work from a tiny photograph, since it in no way resembles the actual painting. After achieving the drawing and getting the light and shadow blocked in, I have hit a wall and the canvas has been sitting in a corner for months, temporarily abandoned.

    The color in your post seems much more vibrant than my resource. Maybe I ought to try to use a similar palette (no zinc white) and go with what feels right.

    What do you think the equivalent of the earth red would be? Perhaps Venetian red or terra rosa?

    Thanks!

  2. Sonia Hale

    Thanks Shane for this. So nice to hear the history and also what fun it'd be to use a limited palette such as this. Maybe later this summer. . .

  3. Silvia Forrest

    Do you know what blue he used on his palette?

  4. Jose Romero

    I´m afraid not such a limitted palette… You can read about a research on Sorolla´s palette here:
    http://www.lasprovincias.es/valencia/20090401/vida-ocio/sorolla-tiene-quimica-20090401.html
    (In spanish; don´t know how google transation can handle it).

    Silvia, the article says that Sorolla used cobalt and ultramarine blue, but rarely used both in the same painting.

  5. MIchael Shane Neal

    Jose–Thanks for your comment. Wish I could read the article…regrettably,I don't speak (or read) Spanish! Although I have read numerous articles, books and similar studies. I also have studied for some time with a student (Ray Kinstler) of a student (Gordon Stevenson) of Sorolla. It's my opinion (and it is only my opinion)…that Sorolla like Zorn and Sargent based his work on the concept of a simple or limited palette…which did not mean he did not introduce other colors. Sargent "basic" palette was about 10 colors, but there is much evidence to support his use of dozens of other colors from time to time. This concept is supported and perpetuated by many of those who knew each of the artists as well as those who have studied their work. But, as John S. Sragent once said…there are many roads to Rome….you may get there by a method or no method at all! Thanks so much for stopping in! Enjoyed seeing your work.

  6. Swami

    I really enjoy your portrait site. The thing about hands and feet was great. Years ago I had the good fortune to assist Ben Long on two of his first three frescos in Ashe Co N. C. He is A master in the renaissance tradition. I was drawing nothing but hands and feet in an informal figure drawing session I organized at the University in Boone, N. C. nearby. I was awed the way Ben could draw the most perfect feet. No matter what the model's feet looked like Ben's drawn feet looked like Rubens had done them from classic models. One has to have filter to transcend the knuckles and nob factor and just see light/dark; curved/ straight and simple, clear tone to do hands and feet. Yours were very beautiful in the demo shots on your last Spectator.
    I was wondering what
    your camera was. Maybe you feel any of the 12 mp and up are good. I just would like to know what you use. I am going to buy this exact set as it is exactly what I need as I get back to portrait painting after a number of years doing other things.
    Years ago I bought a set inspired by noticing how much of an advantage it is for any artist to have as much control of the lighting.

    When Velazquez went in his studio and posed his subject the light from the skylight cast a totally friendly FAMILIAR form clarifier and he was warmed by the beauty. Thanks for the love of painting your come from. Ron Taylor

  7. Swami

    I really enjoy your portrait site. The thing about hands and feet was great. Years ago I had the good fortune to assist Ben Long on two of his first three frescos in Ashe Co N. C. He is A master in the renaissance tradition. I was drawing nothing but hands and feet in an informal figure drawing session I organized at the University in Boone, N. C. nearby. I was awed the way Ben could draw the most perfect feet. No matter what the model's feet looked like Ben's drawn feet looked like Rubens had done them from classic models. One has to have filter to transcend the knuckles and nob factor and just see light/dark; curved/ straight and simple, clear tone to do hands and feet. Yours were very beautiful in the demo shots on your last Spectator.
    I was wondering what
    your camera was. Maybe you feel any of the 12 mp and up are good. I just would like to know what you use. I am going to buy this exact set as it is exactly what I need as I get back to portrait painting after a number of years doing other things.
    Years ago I bought a set inspired by noticing how much of an advantage it is for any artist to have as much control of the lighting as possible.
    When Velazquez went in his studio and posed his subject the light from the skylight cast a totally friendly FAMILIAR form clarifier and he was warmed by the beauty. Thanks for the love of painting your come from. Ron Taylor