This bright and brilliant work by Francis Mora depicts a way of life unique to Valencia, Spain. Beginning in the 18th Century, fishermen off the beach at Cabanyal trawl through the shallow waters near shore. Two boats paired and sailing, typically lanteen-rigged, drag nets behind and when full, return to the beach where teams of oxen pull the boats up onto the sand. Here is the moment of return- the fishermen's wives gather to welcome the boats back, collecting the fish in baskets to walk them into town, where fishmongers will hawk them shouting "Peix d'ara, viu!", Catalan for "Fish now, live!"
The tradition of Fishing with Bulls (Pesca dels Bous) was made famous by Spanish impressionist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. Like Sorolla, Mora embraced the Spanish artistic tradition of "costumbrismo"- the pictorial interpretation of everyday life, mannerisms, and customs, often with a romantic flavor.
It's hard to imagine a more romantic depiction of life on the Cabalyal than Mora painted in this scene. Every surface is bathed in warm light, defining the billowing sails and reflecting colors off the waves. A crowd gathers around boats on the beach while more come in, so laden with fish that their crew must jump out and push with the oxen, whose muscles tense with action. Children play in the foreground while nearby fishermen wind nets in the shallows. The colors are outstanding, particularly in sea and sky which gleam in tones of aquamarine and turquoise. It is that coloration along with excellent composition and great historical subject that put this painting at the top of the artist's output.
This painting is illustrated on page 134 in Lynne Pauls Baron's "F. Luis Mora: America's First Hispanic Master." The book's illustration notes that their image is taken from a reproduction print made by Samuel T. Shaw, a New York Patron of contemporary artists in the earth 20th century. Luis won the Shaw prize for this painting. On p. 140 the book notes that Mora sat alongside Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida as both artists painted this scene.
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