Most tourists go to Spain stuck in the same tired and worn formula for vacation success: disembark plane, take care of the car rental, get settled into the hotel then head to the beach. Some visitors might prefer hitting the museums and seeing some of Spain’s world renown art. If this describes you, you can’t afford to miss one of Spain’s lesser heralded art masters- Joaquín Sorolla.
Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Spanish art knows the big names: Picasso, Goya, Dalí and Gaudí. However, maybe Picasso’s cubism and surrealism never made sense to you. Perhaps Goya’s dark, disturbing and warped works tempered in mental illness are too heavy and creepy for you. Moreover, Dalí’s and Gaudí’s psychedelic investigations make your brain hurt wondering what happened to reality. In this case, Joaquín Sorolla comes to the rescue. He doesn’t command the attention that other superstars of the art scene do, but he might arguably represent Spain the best.
Sorolla was born in Valencia, Spain in 1863. He became known for his excellent ability to paint landscapes, portraits and grandiose works regarding historical and social themes. Sorolla would come to dearly love Valencia, its beaches, Mediterranean landscapes and people, which would later become the subjects of some of his finest works. In 1888 Sorolla married Clotilde García del Castillo and would later father three children: María, Joaquín and Elena. Sorolla and his family would move from Valencia to Madrid in 1890.
After moving to Madrid, Sorolla’s career really began to take off. He bought a large house and studio in the center of Madrid that became his workshop. The home is a historic landmark today and is a museum open to the public, dedicated to Sorolla’s life and works. It was from this house that he launched his most successful projects. He canvases began displaying at international exhibitions in Berlin, Chicago, Paris, Venice, Munich and Madrid of course. In 1892 he won first place at the Chicago International Exhibition for Another Marguerite. This achievement helped build his name internationally, leading to becoming a member of The Hispanic Society of America in New York City.
Sorolla met Archer Milton Huntington who made Sorolla a member of The Hispanic Society. In 1909, Huntington invited Sorolla to exhibit in New York City. He would stay there for five months and paint more than twenty paintings. The experience would prove invaluable as later that year Sorolla would go to the White House and paint a portrait of William Howard Taft. This led to further fame, when Sorolla exhibited over 160 paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1911. However, these are not the paintings Sorolla is most well known for.
Although Sorolla would travel to all the parts of Spain, painting various cities and provinces, his heart always stayed with Valencia. He cherished painting beach scenes and landscapes of small towns like Elche, along the Mediterranean coast. When you see these dreamy, light and airy paintings you feel the essence of Spain breeze through your soul. You suddenly have an ethereal understanding for the fascination of the Mediterranean beaches and coastline. His paintings of Valencia not only do justice for the heart and soul of Spain, but they bring harmony to the soul and spirit of even the most casual fan of the arts. To see some examples of Sorolla’s work, please visit this website.