Following the success of La vuelta de la pesca
at the Paris Salon
of 1895, Sorolla expanded the subject to include not just the fishermen and oxen bringing in the catch but all of the local fishing community, wives, mothers, and children. Broadening the format of his canvas, or in this case the panel, Sorolla presents a picture of the teeming life to be found along the shore. In the present painting the horizontality of the image is emphasised by the thin line of the sea that is adumbrated by the white tops of the waves, while the vastness of the clear blue sky is interrupted by the magnificence of the billowing sails. Fisherwomen cluster around the boats eager to load their baskets with fish. An elegant couple walk away from the scene to the left side, while in the foreground, partially in shadow a fisherman sits quietly with his wife mending the nets. Painted on the beach at Valencia Sorolla revelled in the fresh coastal breeze and brilliant sunshine that the city enjoyed. Despite living and working for all his professional life in Madrid, Sorolla returned year after year to his native Valencia with enthusiasm, capturing the daily rhythms of its fishing community and painting some of his finest works. Describing his work there in a letter to his wife Clotilde, Sorolla eulogised: 'Today I have continued drawing [painting], every time I am more enamoured of nature, so much so that between the sea and the splendid sun I think my happiest days are those on the beach.'
The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Blanca Pons Sorolla, who will be including it in the forthcoming Sorolla catalogue raisonné (BPS 4185).