Saturday, May 31, 2014

Color temperature in the shadow out-of-doors

The Bath, (Baño or Jávea), 1905 by  Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863–1923)
This ebullient painting by Joaquín Sorolla is an example of the common principle: In the shadow, up-facing planes are cool and down-facing planes are warm.

The shift from warm to cool occurs both in the figure in the foreground and in the rocks in the background. The reason for the shift in color temperature is that the up-facing planes pick up more of the sky color and the down-facing planes receive more of the ground color. The actual color mixture is a combination of the surface color of the skin and the color of the light striking it.

One last thing to note is that the warm/cool shifts in the shadow planes can occur at nearly equal value, and it's often very effective to paint them that way.
Oil on canvas; 35 1/2 x 50 1/2 in. (90.2 x 128.3 cm)
The painting is in the Metropolitan Museum collection, though not on view now.
High res file available from Wikimedia Commons
Sorolla book: Sorolla: The Masterworks
My book on Amazon: Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
My book on color, signed for you


Unknown said...

thank you for teaching me!

Vladimir Venkov said...

So helpful as usual. Thank you James.

Eugene Arenhaus said...

Sorolla is one of the best Impressionist painters ever. I had an occasion to see some original canvases in Madrid, recently, and while his meticulous historical and genre paintings are less interesting, the loose, vivid studies of bathers are examples of some of the best painting I had ever encountered. Bold color choices, impeccable rendition of sunlight, seemingly careless but effective brushwork. Delightful work and high skill.

Sergio A Ramos said...

Quite useful observation. Thank you for sharing!

james holland said...

That is a really useful post -and not just for your interesting analysis of how the painting works.

Here in the UK it seems that Sorolla is more or less unknown. I doubt if there has been a solo show of his work here in living memory.London museums have none of his work because such British collectors as there were had a strong bias towards French Impressionism only.

thanks again,

Melissa Shelly said...

So just to clarify, with the girl in the foreground, her entire body is an upright plane (but then what is a plane classified as when it is parallel to the ground and facing the sky, e.g. the top plane of a rock? Isn't that also called an upright plane?) So upright planes are getting coolness from sky even though they aren't directly pitched to the sky?
And the rocks have down-facing planes? Could you clarify this more? I'm mixing up underplanes with down facing planes, I think??? I would think the downfacing planes of the rocks would be absorbing the coolness of the water?
Thanks, Jim

James Gurney said...

Melissa, good questions. When I say upfacing and downfacing planes, I mean that in relative terms. The more a plane faces downward to illuminated surfaces, the more it picks up those colors. In this case, the warmth of the downfacing planes is probably due to the relatively warm color of the shallow water compared to the coolness of the sky.

Note that any surface will be influenced by ALL of the colors of all the lights shining on it, so a white wall in shadow on a sunny day will often be influenced by some combination of: the ground color, the sky color, and the color of other nearby illuminated surfaces.