The Parrish Art Museum presents Joaquín Sorolla and Esteban Vicente: In the Light of the Garden—a new exhibition that introduces the work of two preeminent Spanish artists in the context of the light and color emanating from their gardens—a vibrant source of inspiration in their final creative periods. On view August 7–October 16, 2022, the exhibition presents more than 50 works, featuring paintings dating from 1916–1919 by Sorolla (Spanish, 1863−1923), a renowned Spanish painter at the turn of the 20th century; and paintings, works on paper, and small sculptures made between 1985 and 2000 by Vicente (American, born Spain, 1903–2001), Abstract Expressionist and member of the New York School.
In the Light of the Garden focuses on the work of Sorolla and Vicente through the lens of a mutual affinity for the garden as both theme and inspiration, and to the extent that each created and nurtured his own garden to serve a sustaining vision. Sorolla conceived the garden at his Madrid home as a reflection of his creativity and a work of art in itself; Vicente set up a studio in an 18th-century barn at his farmhouse in Bridgehampton, NY, where he painted his garden’s changing field of color. The exhibition is augmented by paintings and works on paper by Parrish collection artists including Jennifer Bartlett, Charles Burchfield, William Merritt Chase, Robert Dash, Arshile Gorky, Robert Jakob, Jane Peterson, William Lamb Picknell, Fairfield Porter, Ned Smyth, Saul Steinberg, Joseph Stella, Michelle Stuart, Billy Sullivan, and Donald Sultan—each inspired by their own landscapes.
The first of the exhibition’s four gallery spaces presents pairings of Sorolla’s luminous paintings in the Impressionist mode with eight lyrical, abstract paintings by Vicente to invite comparison and contrast of the artists’ exploration of color, form, and light. In his later works, Sorolla was no longer occupied with the exact depiction of a flower, architecture, or ornamental motifs. In Patio de la Casa Sorolla, 1917, the loosely painted, blue-tiled fountain in the foreground is surrounded by a profusion of flowers and plants that dissolve into an abstraction of color, light, and atmosphere. Vicente, too, strips the composition of superfluous elements: structure is reduced to a minimum and the painting fades away, becoming almost transparent. Vicente’s From Above, 1997 has its source in total abstraction. Color generates the sensation of light and is the true subject of the work.
The gallery In the Studio shows the breadth of Vicente’s practice through a variety of media. Oil on canvas paintings in brilliant color, like Bridgehampton, 1994 and Flower of Flowers, 1997, reference the expansive swaths of native plants and flowers as well as the structure of the garden itself. In works on paper created in his final years, biomorphic and abstract geometrical shapes are rendered in pastel, charcoal, and tempera. Five Divertimentos—small sculptures made from found objects painted in basic colors—evoke children’s toys and reveal a whimsical side of the artist.
The gallery Other Artists/Other Gardens presents works dating from 1878–2010 by artists in the Parrish collection who were inspired by the light and landscape of their gardens and surrounding nature. The Big Bayberry Bush (The Bayberry Bush), ca. 1895, by Sorolla’s friend William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916), depicts the natural terrain of the Shinnecock Hills, where the American impressionist created his art school. In South Meadow from the Beach, 1970, Fairfield Porter (American, 1907–1975) likewise focused on his immediate landscape in a rendering of a meadow with native flowers.
Other works have a singular focus, as in Untitled (Irises), ca. 1920—Joseph Stella’s (American, born Italy, 1877–1946) delicate pencil on paper study of irises in bloom and in the bud. Billy Sullivan (American, born 1946) made ink drawings titled with specific timestamps of crows, grackles, blue jays and other birds seen just outside his window in his garden that are teeming with attitude and animation.
In Berber Grayling, 2005, Michelle Stuart (American, born 1933) created the delicacy and ephemerality of the butterfly using beeswax, ink, and watercolor on handmade paper.
In the Light of the Garden is presented in collaboration with the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Esteban Vicente, Segovia, Ana Doldán de Cáceres, Director and Museo Sorolla, Madrid. The exhibition is accompanied by the catalogue Joaquín Sorolla and Esteban Vicente: In the Light of the Garden, featuring essays by Ana Doldán de Cáceres and Eduardo Bardo Gómez.
The presentation at the Parrish Art Museum is organized by Alicia G. Longwell, Ph.D., Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Chief Curator, Art and Education, and is supported by The Harriet and Esteban Vicente Foundation, N.Y.
The Parrish Art Museum’s programs are made possible, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and by the property taxpayers from the Southampton School District and the Tuckahoe Common School District