The artist was heavily interested in social realism for a period of his career and in this case he focuses on two different occupations that have come together for the purposes of launching this new vessel prior to its maiden voyage. Accidents and casualties would have been fairly common during the late 19th century whilst working on the waves, particularly for those who ventured out further from sea, and so any level of divine aid would have been well received, especially when you consider that most people were quite religious in Spain at this time. Here we see the crew sat around quietly, seemingly reflecting on the actions of the priests who stand on deck as they perform this symbolic gesture. There is a respectful air, though in their minds the workers would have been contemplating the work that lied ahead of them once they had left the shoreline.
This item was completed in 1895 and that is in line with his use of social realism, with other examples including depictions of poor workers in train carriages, heading off to another city in order to find work. This method of capturing the lives of the working poor had been common within France for a century or so and suited Sorolla's darker tones which were more common in the earlier part of his career. He would later move away from this and provide happier scenes with brighter palettes and it was the latter which most attracted the general public. His reflections on society such as with Blessing the Boat were well received by art critics but slowly the artist transitioned into the new style which is now how most people remember his career. We have featured all his major works within our paintings section so that you can the full breadth of his oeuvre.
Grant Wood's American Gothic would have to be one of the finest examples of social realism, although the artwork itself has become so iconic today that it almost goes beyond any form of categorisation. A Burial At Ornans and The Stone Breakers by Gustave Courbet are two more traditional examples of this art form and they themselves remain amongst the most famous European paintings of all time. Generally speaking, this movement would paint somewhat sombre moods which have risen and fallen in popularity with the public over the years. Currently brighter tones are more in demand, as are charming and beautiful aesthetics, where one can escape to a pure and innocent time, rather than reflecting on the difficult lives of the poor.