The young clam-digger’s kerchief and her plaid dress identify her as a child of a fishing village rather than as one of the young holiday-goers that Sorolla often featured in his Valencian beach scenes. She carries no basket for her bounty, however, and there are no fishing skiffs in the distance (a mainstay of many of Sorolla’s more descriptive Valencian scenes). Instead, Sorolla has left the horizonless landscape open and uncluttered around the girl, utilizing the broad canvas as a display for his bravura brushwork and his exceptional color sense. An otherwise commonplace tourist subject was transformed into a celebration of childish innocence, nature’s majesty, and an artist’s quite individual vision.
Sorolla had begun his career in the 1880s with elaborately constructed social realist pictures that often explored uncomfortable truths of poverty or emphasized particularly Spanish content. But his ambitions were as complex as his well-demonstrated skills; and as Sorolla’s international exposure increased, he developed a confident balance of post-Impressionist techniques and more universally attractive subject matter – without ever sacrificing his distinctly Spanish flair. Beyond his often amazing facility with a paintbrush, Sorolla was also an astute businessman, parlaying very real successes at international art competitions in Paris or London into a series of several of the largest and most well-received one-man exhibitions through both Europe and the United States. Buscando Mariscos, Playa de Valencia was featured in one of the first of these exhibitions, Sorolla’s one-man show at London’s Grafton Galleries in 1908. In the following year, Sorolla sent many of the same paintings to an equally impressive show of his work in New York and Boston, fostering a particularly strong American interest in his painting. When Sorolla followed with a second American tour, to Chicago and St. Louis in 191, he (as well as his art) was widely celebrated, as the souvenir photo of Sorolla attests (fig. 1). Buscando Mariscos, Playa de Valencia was included in that St. Louis exhibition, and may well have caught the eye of one of the city’s leading figures, Joseph Pulitzer II, publisher of the city’s Post Dispatch, although Pulitzer did not purchase the painting until the following year.
This catalogue entry was written by Alexandra Murphy.
Please note that this work has been requested for the MAPFRE, Madrid venue of the Sorolla & America exhibition (September 23, 2014-January 11, 2015).
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