Here we find a dimly lit artwork, a distance removed from his celebratory and upbeat scenes along Spanish beaches, such as with Women Walking on the Beach and The Horse's Bath. In contrast, this piece in front of us is serious, with a deep message to tell. This was entirely the method used within established Spanish art circles during the late 19th century and so, armed with Sorolla's own technical brilliance, this piece was always likely to be well received. It now resides within the world famous Prado Museum of Madrid, and remains amongst his most famous painting of all. The composition features a young worker at sea, injured, and being cared for by two more experienced sailors. They are down in the hold of the ship, seeking cover as they attend to their injured colleague who lies limply on the wood panelled floor. Fishing was a theme which features again and again within this artist's career, and links to his native city of Valencia which lies on the east coast of Spain.
The posture of the two elderly figures suggests that the young man has substained some sort of cut to his stomach area, as the man to the left holds firmly in order to limit the inevitable bleeding. Perhaps they are attempting to do the best they can before professional services arrive, though that may be some time away, depending on their location at the time. The injured man has a medallion around his shoulders which was worn during these times in order to protect oneself against potential dangers at sea, which during this period would have been very much an issue. Sadly this superstitious addition does not seem to have worked, and an injury has still be sustained in any case. Sorolla then adds plenty of detail elsewhere in the painting in order to set the scene of this boat, including a number of fish laid unconscious to the left hand side, having no doubt have been out of the sea for some time.
This significant and award-winning painting from Joaquin Sorolla was an important step in his development as an artist, both technically but also in terms of establishing a solid reputation that would help to open doors later in his career. And They Still Say Fish are Expensive! now takes pride-of-place within the Prado Museum, an institution that holds several other works from his career within its permanent collection and is also perhaps the best place to learn about Spanish art more generally. Some of the biggest highlights to be found here, within an extraordinary display of art dating back many centuries, includes the likes of Las Meninas, by Diego Velazquez, The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, The Three Graces by Peter Paul Rubens and Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco de Goya. There is a wealth of items to enjoy here, as well as some items from before the Renaissance which again broaden our knowledge of the rich culture to be found within Spain across the ages. The Prado is now considered amongst the most impressive art institutions in the world, and its huge visitor numbers continue to reflect that.