A beautiful boat lies across the artwork, dominating our eyes. A single plank of wood that is laid across its front suggests that perhaps there are some more tasks that need to be carried out before it is ready to leave its present position and head out to sail. Sorolla adored the beaches and seas of his native town and here he examines what happens prior to these small boats entering that environment. We see several ageing men tinkering with different items, perhaps an engine. They disagree over how best to fix the issue that has taken their attention. The workshop frontdoor is wide open, revealing an open landscape beyond. Above it a clear blue sky. They sit in the shade, with a roof protecting both themselves from the sun, but also the boat from any rain whilst it is in its transitional condition. The workshop is typically messy, an area where engineers fix and create, but not intended as a presentable workplace for others to visit.
The fishing industry was well served by this artist. He would tackle it within his paintings from all manner of different angles and stages, capturing the boat builders as found here, then displaying the boats being blessed and then dragged out to see before then returning and being beached, ready for the same tomorrow. He would also show us the lives of the fishermen whilst out at sea, though this was relatively rare perhaps because of the logistics of organising these artworks, and so most of the time he would work from the safety of the Valencian beaches, which is where he also felt his most comfortable. These together provide an important body of work which is key to understanding the man behind this incredible career.
The comparison with Courbet can immediately be seen with some of his work with Social Realism, many of which happen to be amongst his most famous paintings of all. He was someone who liked to capture the working poor within his rural region of France and this helped to herald in a new style of work which quickly became popular with academics. It would eventually fall out of favour due to the arrival of brighter colour palettes and also a more expressive style which came about in the late 19th and early 20th century. Some of Courbet's great contributions included the likes of The Stone Breakers, The Meeting and The Wheat Sifters. Sorolla himself was actually skilled enough to work in many different ways across his career, and could produce both Social Realism and Impressionism as his approach changed over the decades.