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Esteban Vicente (American, born Spain,1903–2001). Untitled, 1995. Oil on canvas.
Joaquin Sorolla and Esteban Vincente: In the Light of the Garden
Parrish Art Museum
Through October 7, 2022
By NICASIA SOLANO, August 2022
Spanish-born artists Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923) and Esteban Vincente (1903-2001) are stylistically very different artists who both found inspiration in the gardens surrounding their respective homes. Joaquin Sorolla and Esteban Vincente: In the Light of the Garden, now on view at the Parrish Art Museum through October 7th, celebrates the unique ways the artists interpreted their common subject matter in a mid-sized exhibition featuring paintings, photographs, and clever exhibition design. Free from a complex curatorial premise, In the Light of the Garden is a breath of fresh air in its emphasis on aesthetics and the inherent beauty of Sorolla and Vincente’s work.
Gardens have long served as inspiration for artists. Take, for example, Monet’s paintings of Giverny, Renoir’s sun-dappled jardins, or Cézanne painting at Jas de Bouffan. In the Light of the Garden allows visitors to engage with two accomplished, if still somewhat underappreciated, artists, from different generations, working from a common motif. Sorolla, a Spanish Impressionist, was based in Madrid. Born in Segovia, Vincente left Spain for New York City in the 1930s where he became an influential member of the Abstract Expressionist movement.
Joaquín Sorolla (Spanish, 1863–1923). Patio de la Casa Sorolla, 1917. Oil on canvas.
Sorolla’s Impressionist canvases present a Spanish take on an originally French art movement. His works are representational, but his brushstrokes are loose and sensitive to the delicate light and colors in the two gardens commissioned for his Madrid home. This sensitivity is evident in Rosal de la Casa Sorolla (1918–1919), in which leaves on individual roses are depicted with great care. His garden inspired by Alcazár of Seville garden is on full display in Patio de la Casa Sorolla (1917), emphasizing both the architecture and floral elements of his garden with captivating detail.
In lieu of figuration, Vincente interpreted his garden through abstract compositional choices and color variations, exemplified beautifully in the soft wash of blues and greens in Bridgehampton (1994). A 1976 quote by Vincete illustrates his artistic philosophy well, stating “The question is, what is color? For me, color resolves itself in light. I don’t see that it can be any other way. A color, in order to exist, has to generate the sensation of light, which is really the vibration of sunlight.”
Esteban Vicente (American, born Spain, 1903–2001). Bridgehampton, 1994. Oil on canvas.
Of the show’s four gallery spaces, the gallery featuring the work of both Sorolla and Vincente is the clear highlight of the show and a curatorial triumph for Alicia G. Longwell, Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Chief Curator of Parrish, and Ana Doldán de Cáceres from the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Esteban Vincente in Segovia. The compact space features just eight paintings by Sorolla next to eight paintings by Vincente. Upon first glance, contrast between the pairings takes visual priority. More time spent in the gallery however reveals the curators paired works moreso according to unifying features, including shared brightly saturated color palettes, and free brush strokes. In the pairing of Vincente’s Composición (1994) and Sorolla’s Jardin de Casa Sorolla (1919), gold accents from Sorolla’s painting take the form of large color fields in Vincente’s painting. Both artists utilize a soft, blue green color to represent their respective foliage, making their common inspiration tangible.
Jennifer Bartlett (American, born 1941)In the Garden #116, 1983. Screenprint.
The exhibit includes a gallery titled In The Studio, focusing on the studio practice of Vincente and mainly features works from the last decade of his life. The thoughtful exhibition design plays a central role in this gallery. Intending to mirror the studio barn Vincente worked from adjacent to his Bridgehampton home, a series of bright green paintings and small sculptures are placed precariously on ledges, evoking imagery of paintings on easels. Another gallery space, titled Other Artists/Other Gardens, displays work from various artists in Parrish’s permanent collection. Highlights include Billy Sullivan’s 10/22/91 3:15pm 3:50pm (1991) and 9/10/91 11:30 AM, 1:55 PM (1991) and Jennifer Bartlett’s In the Garden #16 (1983). Sullivan, best known for his cartoons in The New Yorker, draws rows of birds as seen from his dining room in East Hampton. Bartlett’s large screenprint explores abstracted perspectives of her villa garden in Nice, France.
Photographs by Laurie Lambrecht across from a row of small scale works on paper by Vincente give visitors an intimate view of Vincente and his wife Harriet in their Hamptons gardens and studio located in close proximity to Parrish. The artist and museum shared a warm relationship throughout his life that continues now through The Harriet and Esteban Vicente Foundation. There is a bright open space at the end of the hallway with oversize photos of Sorolla and Vincente’s gardens. Benches in the space are plenty, inviting visitors to sit down and enjoy both the photographs, and a 1995 video of the Vincente couple speaking about their home. What becomes evident in this component of the exhibition, is the tender domesticity Sorolla and Vincente’s gardens held.
The garden landscaping surrounding the Parrish Art Museum itself enhances the exhibition, and a walk through the various sculptures and plants on the grounds gives viewers a sense of what so deeply inspired these artists. Thoughtful curation and creative exhibition design frame Sorolla and Vicente’s work excellently. In the Light of the Garden is a well rounded exhibition featuring formally beautifully work well worth a visit to Parrish. WM
Nicasia is a writer and freelance curator based in New York City. She received her BA from Hunter College and is an MA student at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. She specializes in modern and contemporary Latin American art history.
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