The rich, vibrant colors; the loose, confident brushstrokes; the painterly surface and broken color, the translucent sparkle of water on the skin of swimming children; the brilliant wash of sunlight defining a billowing sail; the sparkling daubs of suggested wavelets; the dappled corners of a summer garden; the saturated shadows of sun bathed cloth and the physical feeling of light, pouring through his paintings like a mist of illumination, may give you the… um, impression that Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida is an impressionist. He has more in common, though, with painters like his friends John Singer Sargent or William Merritt Chase, and some of the other so-called “American Impressionists”, than with the French “painters of light”.
Yes, Sorolla too is certainly a painter of light; light in all of its dazzling brilliance, light that acts like its own prism, breaking up into sparkling shards of intense color, but with a touch and an intention that is all his own. Veláquez was as much an influence Sargent or Chase, and his early exposure to the work of Jules Bastien-Lepage, and some of the Orientalist painters, along with his extensive classical training and study of the masters, lent his work an underlying classical solidity that the French rebels (with the notable exception of Degas) deliberately obscured with their own kaleidoscopic explosions of color.
Sorolla received attention and honors in Europe. With a dramatic show at the Hispanic Society of New York in 1909, and subsequent shows in New York, he entered a number of collections here in the U.S., including the Getty Museum.
It is at the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, where the young Sorolla spent countless hours studying the work of the masters, and Veláquez in particular, that there is now a major exhibition of Sorolla’s paintings.
Simply called Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923), the exhibition runs until September 6, 2009. There is a catalogue accompanying the exhibition.
The pages of the exhibition listing include reproductions of some of the pieces in the show, including the images above.
The Prado also has other paintings by Sorolla that you can search for here (hint, click into the zoomable image, then control-click or right-click on the zoomable image and choose “View in another window” to see the entire high-res image).
There are excellent sources for Sorolla’s work online, including Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida – The complete works, and the collection of Museo Sorolla, as well as others I’ll list below.
For more, see my previous post on Joaquín Sorolla. Sorolla was also friends with Aureliano Beruete, another independently minded painter who gets labeled as s “Spanish Impressionist”, and painted his portrait.
Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida - The complete works
Cuidad de la pintura
Bio on Wikipedia
El Poder de la Palabra
Artcyclopedia (museum and online listings)
My previous post on Joaquín Sorolla
7 Replies to “Sorolla at the Prado”
Thanks for the heads up Charley, Sorolla was an amazing painter and it’s great to see him gaining greater recognition in our day.
The Getty is one of those places you love to hate though…I love their Alma Tadema on display, but hate the fact that they have their beautiful Sorollas locked up somewhere.
Thanks, Daniel. I may take you up on that.
I’d never heard of Sorolla until I was visiting the Hispanic Museum in upper Manhattan (one of those institutions that would be a major collection in another city but which kind of get lost in the NYC museum flurry). They’ve got two amazing Sorollas that stopped me dead in my tracks. I was just like…”Who is this guy?”
Always great to ‘discover’ a new piece of the art history puzzle on your own and without any preparation or introduction.
Anyone visiting NYC should make the pilgrimage up to the Hispanic Museum (155th and Broadway). Off the beaten path but worth the effort. Free admission! They’ve also got a couple of Velasquez portraits and loads of Spanish colonial period work.
Thanks, Tim. I haven’t been there yet, but two Sorolla’s and two Valezquez portraits alone make it worth the trip! There is also at least one Sorolla in the Met. I don’t know if it’s on display.
Another great posting. I’ve had the opportunity to see the Joaquin Sorolla retrospective at Museo del Prado on June 28. Absolutely phenominal to see it in person, and I was moved to tears by several pieces. The place was just jammed pack with people, it would have been great to see it in a more relaxed setting. The previous day, I had the opportunity of visiting the Museo Sorolla, also located at Pso. General Martinez Campos, 37 in Madrid. This turned out to be the highlight of my visit to Madrid for me. The museum is actually his former house and three interconnected art studios, built in 1911. It opened as a museum after his death in 1932. From the moment you step into the garden leading to the main entrance, you are entering into his world. The main studio space had a vaulted ceiling, paintings were hung ”Salon Style”, and on display was his brushes, paint box, easel, his personnal collection of pottery and sculptures, and an at least 80 of his original works, although some were on loan for his retropective. During my visit, only a hand-full of people were there, so I really took the time to absorb the beauty and the creative energy that filled the space. A must-see for any art lover.
Thanks, Alvin. Sounds like the Sorolla Museum is a sharp contrast to many of the museums established in artist’s houses that actually have little of the work. Also sounds like reason in and of itself to visit Madrid!
Other readers can see more of Alvin Richard’s trip to spain, as well as his own crisply detailed acrylic paintings on his blog, ACRYLIC and LIGHT.
I consider myself fortunate to have seen the Sorolla exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum back in 1989.
For anyone interested in Sorolla’s work, the catalog of that exhibition, by Edmund Peel, is well worth the effort of tracking down on the secondary market.
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