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This charming artwork reminds us all of the classical fashion of the late 19th century as we find Joaquin Sorolla producing a portrait of his wife whilst she is sat on the beach.
Her parasol illuminates the scene, radiating a light yellow tone which stands out from the rest of the painting. Sorolla had a particular colour scheme which appears again and again throughout his beach-based artworks, but it was rare for him to feature his wife here. Typically, the content would be of children playing or working fishermen and their wives in a style more akin to social realism. As Clothilde sits with her parasol leaning on her right shoulder, it may remind many of some of the work of Claude Monet, who also painted his own wife many times. Woman with Parasol, for example, is set in the French countryside and again plays on the feminity of women through fashion and grace. Sorolla himself would often dress his family in white clothing for their portraits which he must have felt played on the idea of their purity and he does so again here with his wife who is resplendant in a full length white dress which is flattering but also classical.
This painting was completed in 1904 and is now to be found in the Sorolla Museum in Madrid, Spain. The majority of portraits that the artist completed of his wife, and also of his children, would be kept within the ownership of his family and not sold privately. He might use them for exhibitions in order to display a wider selection of his work, but would then quickly take them home, whilst attempting to sell some of the other genres in his oeuvre. He adored his family and we can learn a lot from studying their development over time through the various portrait paintings that he produced. Sorolla would have to travel as his career took off, including across Europe and also to the US, but he never lost his roots and had helped foster a strong family bond which continued on with his children who have also helped to develop the foundation that he had set up.
En plein air was the term given to describe painting outdoors and it would be Claude Monet himself who influenced many other artists to work in this way. He wanted to connect with what he was painting as much as possible, rather than simply taking simple sketches to develop from the comfort of his own studio. Sorolla chose to follow a similar path within his series of beach depictions and was adaptable enough to produce many different interpretations, all tailored to the content in front of him at the time. He is most famous for bright palettes, but also used darker tones that were influenced by Velazquez too. Invariably, his family portraits would be positive, representing his deep affection for his wife and children, and these paintings would become known as some of his best.