For our first outing in Madrid, we optedto go see the Sorolla Museum, somewhat out of the beaten trail. Having admired one of Sorolla’s painting at the Prado last year, we wanted more.The museum did not disappoint.
Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida was a celebrated Spanish painter of the twentieth century. His luminous paintings, many in large formats, are a delight for the eye. His mastery of light, of the vibrant colors under the sharp Spanish sun, is unequalled. You want to touch the slky skin of a nude shoulder, the satiny smoothness of bedsheets, or rub between your fingers a muslin scarf floating in the wind.
Sorolla, thought his art, is also a chronicler of his time. He paints the hard life of people in Spain, be they fisherwomen, immigrants, or beggars. He depicts the richness of local costumes,the indolence of a hot summer afternoon, or the innocent pleasure of naked children playing on the beach. (For a view of some of his paintings, click here. He found his family –wife, daughters and son– and endless source of inspiration; his depictions of normal family life are full of great affection and respect.
Once you’ve admired Sorolla’s paintings and the many objects he accumulated throughout his life, you can walk through the charming miniature gardens fronting his house, an oasis of calm in a bustling corner of Madrid. Sorolla designed them himself and took pleasure in painting parts of them at the end of his life.
Sorolla was prolific and enjoyed an immense reputation, both in Europe and the United States. At the top of his career, he had an exhibition of 550 of his works in Paris; the country was so enamored with his art that he was awarded the Legion of Honor. He received similar kudos when he showed 336 of his paintings in New York.
The museum is situated in the painter’s house and studio where he stayed in the last days of his life. Clotilde,his wife, donated the house and its contents to the Spanish government on the condition that it would be transformed into a museum dedicated to her husband’s works. It assembles the best collection of his works, including many paintings of the love of his life, his wife Clotilde and his children Maria, Elena and Joaquin.
We returned home with the white Spanish light in our eyes and a wonder that remains still.