Summer Arts Review: Sorolla, Richard Wright, and Nicolas Vanier
Hello all! Happy September, and for those of you at Vassar, happy first week of school. My name is Natalie, and I am a new writer for The Miscellany News’ “Main Circle.” I am excited to contribute as an Arts and Culture blogger this year. In this post, I would like to introduce myself, and discuss and recommend a few works of art that I experienced (saw/read/watched), and that struck me, during the summer.
I have always been a lover of the arts, and grew up pursuing various creative arts. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I both danced and played the clarinet seriously, and during high school, I wrestled with which I most wanted to study in college. I have also always loved to read, and since starting my education at Vassar, I have realized that I want literature and writing to be a significant part of my life and career. Now, I am entering my senior year, and am studying Hispanic studies, creative writing, and dance. I feel lucky to have found a place and a combination of fields that allows me to study known artistic interests and to explore previous unknown ones, and I am starting my final year at Vassar with a bittersweet feeling.
In the last couple of months, I devoured a pile of books, visited a couple art galleries, and watched a few movies. Many of the pieces I read and viewed were quite good, but I would like to share the most compelling and memorable works of my summer.
I studied abroad in Madrid last semester, and during my final day of the semester, I visited the Prado one last time. The Prado is one of Madrid’s many excellent museums, and it stands out for its collection of pre-20th century art and for its grandeur. However, in my last visit there, the museum was hosting a special exhibit of Spanish impressionist art (early 20th century), and I got to see several originals of Joaquin Sorolla, who I had discovered in my Spanish art history class and really liked for the luminosity of his work. Among his paintings, I saw Niños en la playa, which entranced me for several reasons. Though simple, I find the use of color surprisingly modern for 1910. It’s hard to see in a small version, but Sorolla used lots of reds and yellows in the water and skin. The obvious use of bright colors in natural objects was untraditional in that time, but I think it really works to capture the essence of sunlight. I also really love that despite the stagnant poses of the children, there is a lot of movement in this painting. I feel that even with depicting very shallow water, Sorolla is able to express the power and motion of the sea. Overall, I believe that it is one of the rare paintings that invites the viewer to study it for a long time, yet is not overly complicated.
Late in the summer, I had the chance to visit Taiwan. (I must stress that my years are not normally so intercontinental.) Incongruously, I chose to read Richard Wright’s “Native Son” during this trip. “Native Son” is probably the most known work of my summer favorite list, so I will not go into detail on the work itself. But, beyond its haunting portrayal of race relations in America, which—I write this in the week following Michael Brown’s funeral— struck me as disturbingly modern in the descriptions of the essence of fear, I found it the most excellently crafted novel I have read in a long time.
Lastly, on a circuitous route returning to Buffalo from Taiwan, I had the chance to watch several movies during my flights. Many on-flight films are too violent or too mainstream or too blah for my liking, but with luck in the “family section,” I happened upon a film called “Belle et Sébastien” by Senegalese director Nicolas Vanier. Perhaps this film is secretly famous, but I had never heard of it. Though it is often quite sad or disturbing due to its setting of occupied France during World War 2, “Belle et Sébastien” tenderly portrays a friendship between a young boy and a dog, which serves as a lovely metaphor for all intra and interspecies friendships.
I hope, if you are not familiar with any of these works, you get a chance to see/read them. They are all engaging and well worth a few quiet hours.