Joaquín Sorolla (1863 - 1923): Hall of the Ambassadors

Joaquín Sorolla (1863 - 1923): Hall of the Ambassadors

6/21/2021, 12:16:28 PM
Joaquín Sorolla (1863 - 1923): Hall of the Ambassadors, Alhambra, Granada, 1909, Oil on canvas, 104.1 × 81.9 cm (41 × 32 1/4 in.), J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles The play of light on the water and against the sun-drenched walls of the Alhambra, one of Spain's most influential architectural achievements, was ideally suited to Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida's artistic mission: exploring the changing effects of light under the broadest possible range of conditions. Just as the Alhambra's architects had interwoven light and shade, stone and water, Sorolla captured the myriad patterns created by the architecture, water, and light together. The shadows of the thin columns against the walls create a pattern reflected in the water, whose liquidity is remarkable, given the thick gestural paint that Sorolla applied. The thirty-five-acre Alhambra, built between 1238 and 1358, was the last Moslem stronghold in Western Europe in the late Middle Ages. The Moorish architectural style reached its ultimate refinement here, an airy fantasy that almost seems to float, despite its solid construction of stone and stucco. (Getty Museum - getty.edu) The pool is a natural subject choice for Sorolla. “The sea is the protagonist of his most emblematic paintings, and fountains become the epicentres of his courtywards and gardens. Water allows him to attain the highest degree of refinement in capturing light and the instant in his paintings. Water multiplies the possibilities for contemplating the facades of the Alhambra in Granada and the arcades of the Alcázar in Seville, which are 'narcissised' in its reflections. Water infinitely enriches Sorolla’s pictorial surface. For him, water is the essence” (Maria Lopes Fernandez). Aside from the horizontal axes of the architecture, Sorolla has chosen in the painting a view of the sun-struck palace that creates bold vertical lines extending beyond the top and bottom of the canvas through its reflection. His relationship to and use of photography is evident here, a medium that invited play with reflections and which became a popular motif in photography from this period.

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