SOROLLA: PAINTER OF LIGHT

Joaquín Sorolla was born in Valencia in 1863. He was left orphaned at the age of 2 following the death of his parents during a cholera epidemic and was raised by his maternal aunt Isabel Bastida. His secondary school teachers spotted his interest in painting and encouraged Joaquín to pursue studies in fine arts. He attended evening drawing classes at the School of Artisans of Valencia and would later go on to enrol in the San Carlos School of Fine Arts.

 

He studied 17th century Spanish painting, mainly Velázquez, in Madrid’s Prado Museum. Troughout his entire career he entered into painting competitions and won major awards with works such as “El dos de mayo” (The Second of May) in which, through realism, he sought to create the effect of light and the burned gunpowder enveloping the characters in the
painting.

 

He used the corrals of the bullring in Valencia as his workshop; He also won an award for “El grito del Palleter” (The Shout of the Palleter) that led to a scholarship to study in
Rome. Both paintings are history-themed. Some of his other award-winning social-themed works of art are “¡otra Margarita¡” (Another Margarita!) or “Triste herencia” (Sad Inheritance).

The painters Gonzalo Salvá and Ignacio Pinazo introduced him to plein air painting, which he would go on to do throughout his career, not to mention his knowledge of impressionist painting by foreign artists that he acquired on his many trips to Paris.

 

In Rome, he studied the Italian Renaissance and became acquainted with the painting of Mariano Fortuny, who had a big influence on him, as can be seen in his painting “Moro con naranjas” (Orange Seller). He would go on to meet other Spanish painters such as Benlliure, Villegas and Salas.

 

In September 1888 he married Clotilde García, daughter of the photographer Antonio García and lived for some time in the city of Assisi (Italy), in the house belonging to the painter José Benlliure, where the latter’s costumbrismo style of painting sparked his interest, inspiring him to paint “vendiendo melones” (Selling melons).

 

1889, after moving to Madrid, saw the dawn of the great splendour of Sorolla’s painting, through the development of his LUMINISM style, going on to be considered the master of light because of his incredible ability to capture light and shade, as well as the movement of the people in his paintings.

 

His Social Realism period inspired by the mind and literary work of his friend Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, with paintings such as “Y aún dicen que el pescado es caro” (They Still Say that Fish is Expensive!), “La vuelta de la pesca” (Return from Fishing), “trata de blancas” (White Slave Trade) and “Una investigación” (An Investigation).

 

And also in his Sailor Costumbrismo period, inspired by the teachings of Pinazo, he created works such as “Cosiendo las Velas” (Mending the Sail), “Tres velas” (Three Sails), “El pescador” (Valencian fisherman), “Niños en la playa” (Children on the beach), “El baño del caballo” (Washing the Horse), “El bote blanco” (The white boat, Javea) and “Paseo a orillas del Mar” (Strolling along the Seashore).

 

Another one of his most successful facets were portraits such as those of Benito Pérez Galdós, Ramón y Cajal, Blasco Ibáñez, Machado, King Alfonso XIII in the gardens of La Granja and Queen Victoria Eugenia, not to mention the many portraits he painted of his wife Clotilde.

 

The Hispanic Society of America in New York commissioned 14 large murals dedicated to the Regions of Spain to be housed in the library of its headquarters. This institution also houses the painting “El Sol de la tarde” (Afternoon sun), which the painter himself considers to be his best work.

 

He died in Cercedilla (Madrid) in August 1923 and his house in Madrid has been home to the Sorolla Museum since 1932.

 

Documented by Elena González de Castejón Enríquez.

 

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