The composition in front of us features a man dragging his boat through shallow water towards the shore, no doubt after a hard day of work on the seas. He wears a hat to protect him from the sun as this small boat does not have anywhere to hide away. We can just make out sandy tones of colour at the foot of the painting which helps us to confirm how close he is to shore and shortly he would have beached the boat and left it there ready for another day's fishing tomorrow. The boat itself looks strong and well made, but without any frills. The sail plumes out above him, and the sea looks fairly calm as he completes his last task for the day. Sorolla rarely tackled aggressive waves in his beach paintings and so most have a calming atmosphere, even when there are fishermen performing draining work in the hot sun. The painting is dated at 1908 and remains within a private collection.
Studies have been a very important part of the creative process for centuries, and can be performed in the same medium as the final artwork, or in an alternative. During the Renaissance, for example, the likes of Michelangelo would work tirelessly on practicing their technical abilities with chalk and charcoal. This would then prepare them for the later fresco work in which their reputations would be built. In the case of this study for Beaching the Boat, the artist appears to be using oils, suggesting that he is confident that his ideas are fairly close to the final artwork and so he can invest a little more time on this study artwork, applying layers of colour over an extended period. It is likely, therefore, that he might have worked in pencil earlier for some simple layout ideas, and then moved on to this more advanced stage afterwards. Even a study piece such as this, because of its relatively complete finish, would still be worth a considerable amount of money were it ever to go up for auction.
Boats, and the seas more generally have long inspired countless numbers of artists, going back many centuries. Someone who really mastered the maritime genre would have to be American painter, Winslow Homer, who gave us the likes of Breezing Up (A Fair Wind), The Herring Net and The Fog Warning. He was also involved with social realism, just as Sorolla was. He did not use quite the same bold palette of bright tones, and this probably reflected the different lighting of the environment that he worked in. This gave his work a quite different feel to that of Sorolla, even though there were many similarities between the content that they used. Sorolla would later head out to the US and meet a number of American painters, some of whom he became good friends with. It was around this time that the US was starting to start its ascent towards the top of the global art world, having previously spent several centuries following in the shadow of European painters.