I recently reviewed this painting by Joaquin Sorolla for Plein Air Magazine. I started the article off with a discussion of how I critique master paintings. Here is an extract from the article:
"What are the qualities that make a painting a masterpiece and ultimately determine its long-term value? Why are some paintings so much more rewarding to look at than others? These are the important questions I asked on my artistic journey. As I learned from the teachings and writings of many great artists past and present, a picture emerged that now forms the basis of my own teaching and writing.
Master paintings share two key characteristics. First, they accurately represent a subject and are focused on communicating an idea or emotion. I refer to this aspect of a great painting as the “poetry” of a painting, or the content the artist is trying to convey to viewers. When you look at a master painting, you are moved in some way, and the memory of it stays with you. Master paintings of course demonstrate great drawing and color skills, but those expertly handled skills are focused on presenting an idea.
The second key characteristic of a master painting is a strong abstract design that is independent of the subject matter. I refer to this as the “music” of the painting, or the sensuous, non-intellectual part. It is created with rhythms and harmonies in shapes, lines, edges, and colors and is analogous to the rhythms in music and the harmonies between individual notes.
A master painting also has multiple repeating threads running through it. These hold the painting together and unify it in much the same way a great symphony is tied together by a repeated main theme. Variety in these repeated elements, as in music, adds interest to the painting. Repetition, variety, unity, harmony are characteristics of all great symphonies and of all great paintings."
... Continue reading the full critique as a pdf file here.
The new Plein Air Magazine is a great magazine by the way. I particularly like the articles on the historic painters who painted plein air. You can read a a sample of the magazine here. There is also an interview on the story of how the Virtual Art Academy painting lesson program came about in the same issue.