Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923), "Sad Inheritance"
Haden continues: "Take for instance the Sorolla (painting above). The coat and the kids flesh are very different local values. According to that rule, the coat in the light should be lighter than the shadows on the kids (reflected light would be lightening their shadow sides a touch). But still the coat in the light is almost black, shouldn't it be a mid-grey?"
"If the answer is paint it as you see it, then it's not really a rule, is it? Isn't it more just a general guideline for scenes with objects similar in local value? "
Reply: Haden, you are very observant to notice that the Sorolla painting breaks the rule. I believe you are right. If this scene were actually staged outdoors in front of the sea with real people, the monk's cloak would be much lighter in the sunlight and the sea would be lighter and bluer.
I found an alternate scan of the image which I would suppose is closer to the original, but even in this scan, the values of the cloak and the sea are still very dark.
The best answer I can give is that rules are made to be broken. The rule should be understood first, and then ignored whenever the story demands. Here, because the form of the monk is not as important as those of the children, a simple dark shape suffices.
This is what Andrew Wyeth and other artists describe as "going beyond the facts." The painting "Sad Inheritance" is about the frailty of the human condition, the triumph of the spirit, and the gift of compassion. These are all fairly sober themes, calling for a sober palette of color and value.
Sorolla tells a very different story in this painting of children running along the beach. It communicates pure exuberance and energy. Like the other painting, the figures are front-lit, with the sea behind them. But (assuming these scans are accurate) here the blue colors are stronger, and the foam is purer white, creating a more carefree mood.
|Sorolla's first sketch for "Sad Inheritance"|
This is why it's so important to allow a composition to grow in the imagination or the memory before facing facts, regardless of whether those facts come from observation or photography.
Wikipedia: Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923)