Joaquín Sorolla (part 3)

In my final look at the Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla I want to show you some of his portraiture work which featured his family and finally take a look at the house in which he and his family lived and which would later become a museum in his honour.

Mother by Joaquin Sorolla (1895)
Mother by Joaquin Sorolla (1895)

One of the most moving family portraits by Sorolla was of his wife Clotilde, laying in bed with their new born baby, their youngest child, Elena.  The painting is simply entitled Mother and was completed in 1895.   His wife looks lovingly towards her daughter who is swaddled in a mass of white bedding contrasted by the artist’s yellow/green tonal shading of the bed clothes. 

 

My Family by Joaquín Sorolla (1901)
My Family by Joaquín Sorolla (1901)

In 1901 Sorolla completed a portrait of his family entitled My Family, which somehow reminds us of Diego Velazquez’s Las Meninas, where the painter showed in the background a mirror that reflects the upper bodies of the king and queen. They appear to be placed outside the picture space in a position similar to that of the viewer.  In Sorolla’s painting we see his image, palette in hand, in a mirror in the background.  The main figures in the painting were those of his family.  His wife Clotilde stands to the left in a long red dress along with her children.   Elena, the youngest, sits on the chair was five years old at the time. Their nine-year old son Joaquín sits on a stool sketching a picture of his sister whilst their elder daughter, Maria, who would have been eleven when her father completed the work, holds the board which her brother is using to support his sketch.

Maria by Joaquín Sorolla (1900)
Maria by Joaquín Sorolla (1900)

One of Sorolla’s favourite subjects was his eldest child, Maria and over the years he would capture her in many of his portraits.  In 1900 he captures her sitting on a chair dressed in a white tunic with her hands entwined on her lap.  The painting is entitled Maria.  The whiteness of her dress is enhanced by touches of blue.   In the background there is a wall with decorative and colourful tiles 

Maria Sick by Joaquín Sorolla (1907)
Maria Sick by Joaquín Sorolla (1907)

Six years later he completed another two portraits of Maria.  The first, entitled Maria Sick, completed in 1907 depicts his daughter sitting outside, well wrapped up in heavy but warm clothes.  She was recuperating in the mountains outside of Madrid having come down with an illness.   Sorolla himself was supposed to have been in Germany at this time, to be present at the one-man exhibition of his work at Berlin, Dusseldorf and Cologne organised by the Berlin gallery owner, Eduard Schulte.  However Sorolla refused to leave his daughter at a time when she was so unwell.

 

Maria painting in El Pardo by Joaquín Sorolla (1907)
Maria painting in El Pardo by Joaquín Sorolla (1907)

That same year, following the recovery from her illness, her father painted another portrait of her, entitled Maria Painting in El Pardo.  The work depicts his daughter seated on a hill top, close to the royal palace, painting en plein air. 

Clotilde Sitting on the Sofa by Joaquín Sorolla (1910)
Clotilde Sitting on the Sofa by Joaquín Sorolla (1910)

However Joaquín Sorolla’s favourite muse was his beloved wife Clotilde whom he had married in 1888.   She featured in a large number of his works.  I particularly like the one he painted in 1910 entitled Clotilde Sitting on the Sofa.  Art historians believe that the painting was influenced by the works of the American painter John Singer Sargent.  His wife leans against the arm of a sofa, dressed in a full length gown.

 

Clotilde in Evening Dress by Joaquín Sorolla (1910)
Clotilde in Evening Dress by Joaquín Sorolla (1910)

Another beautiful painting of his lovely wife was completed that same year entitled Clotilde in Evening Dress and from it, it is plain to see that Sorolla had married a beautiful and enchanting person.  We see her sitting upright in a plush, well upholstered red chair, dressed in a black evening dress with a blue flower tucked behind her ear.  She is the personification of a Spanish lady.

Sorolla had a one-man exhibition in the Grafton Galleries, London in 1908 and it is whilst in London that he met Archer Milton Huntington, who was the son of Arabella Huntington and the stepson of the American railroad tycoon and industrialist Collis Huntington.   Archer Huntington was a lover of the arts and the founder of the Hispanic Society of America which was based in New York.  The Hispanic Society of America was, and still is, a museum and reference library for the study of the arts and cultures of Spain and Portugal as well as those of Latin America.  Huntington arranges for Sorolla to have a major one-man exhibition at the Society in 1909 and it proved to be a resounding success so much so that the exhibition travelled to many American cities.  Huntington then commissioned Sorolla to paint 14 large scale mural paintings, oil on canvas, depicting the peoples and regions of Spain.  On receiving Huntington’s commission in 1911, Sorolla spent the next eight years travelling  throughout the regions of Spain making hundreds of preparatory sketches before completing what was to become known as Vision of Spain.   Sorolla was clear in his mind what Huntington expected and how he would achieve it, for he said:

“…I want to truthfully capture, clearly and without symbolism or literature, the psychology of the region.   Loyal to the truth of my school I seek to give a representative view of Spain, searching not for philosophies but for the picturesque aspects of the region…”

The fourteen murals were installed on December 1922 in the newly renovated western extension to the Hispanic Society’s Main Building, which is now known as the Sorolla Room. They were not officially inaugurated until January 1926. 

Panels from “Vision of Spain,” Joaquín Sorolla’s panoramic mural, during reinstallation at the Hispanic Society of America in New York City.
Panels from “Vision of Spain,” Joaquín Sorolla’s panoramic mural, during reinstallation at the Hispanic Society of America in New York City.

The Hispanic Society building had problems with their roof and it got so bad that in 2007 the museum had a full make-over and the picture above shows the re-installation of the fourteen paintings.

His eight years on this project was at the expense and detriment of his other work and sadly nearing the end of this project his health began to deteriorate and in June 1920 he suffered a stroke which ended his painting career.  One can only imagine how devastated Sorolla must have been not being able to paint.   Three years later in August 2010 Sorolla died in Cercedilla, a small town in the Sierra de Guadarrama, north-west of Madrid.  His body was taken and buried in the town of his birth, Valencia.

Room inside Sorolla Museum
Room inside Sorolla Museum

I cannot end this trilogy of blogs about Joaquín Sorolla without mentioning the Sorolla Museum which was the artist’s home from 1911. 

Room inside Sorolla Museum
Room inside Sorolla Museum

It is a five minute walk from the Ruben Dario Metro station and I do urge you to visit it if you are in Madrid.  You will not be disappointed. 

Museum entrance
Museum entrance

There are so many of the artist’s beautiful paintings on show and the gardens are a delight.

Museum Gardens
Museum Gardens
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Joaquín Sorolla (part 2)

Portrait of Joaquín Sorolla by José Jiménez Aranda (1901)
Portrait of Joaquín Sorolla by José Jiménez Aranda (1901)

By 1885, Joaquín Sorolla had settled down to life in Rome but during that year he also spent the spring and summer in Paris.  At this time in the French capital, the Impressionists were in the ascendancy after they and their art had been criticised and they had had to survive an initial period of ridicule, commercial failure and outright denunciation.    However, the Impressionists had now managed to establish their status some eleven years after they held their first Impressionist exhibition at Nadar’s studios and whilst Sorolla was in Paris he saw much of thire work but it was not the Impressionist painters who would influence him.   Whilst in the French capital he visited the retrospective exhibitions of two non-Impressionist painters, the French Naturalist painter, Jules Bastien-Lepage, who had died the previous year, and Adolf von Menzel the German painter who, along with Caspar Davisd Friedrich, was considered one of the two most prominent German artists of the 19th century and was also the most successful artist of his era in Germany.

Sorolla returned to his home town of Valencia on two occasions during the late 1880’s and on the second visit in 1888 he proposed to and married Clotilde Garcia del Castillo the daughter of his mentor, the photographer Antonio Garcia.  Joaquín and Clotilda had first met in 1879 when he had started work in her father’s workshop.   Joaquín finally returned from Italy and in 1890 the couple settled in Madrid.   Sorolla style of painting became more individualistic with him tending towards social realism works. 

Another Marguerite by Joaquín Sorolla (1892)
Another Margarita by Joaquín Sorolla (1892)

For a good example of a social realism work by Sorolla one only has to look at his beautifully executed painting entitled Another Margarita which he completed in 1892.  He exhibited the work at the Madrid National Exhibition that year and was awarded a first-class medal.  This was also Sorolla first major painting to be exhibited in America and it was awarded the first prize at the Chicago International Exhibition, where it was acquired and subsequently donated to the Washington University Museum in St Louis.    The story behind the depiction is of a woman who has been arrested for suffocating her small son and Sorolla actually witnessed the woman being transported to jail.  There is an air of gloom about the manacled woman as she sits slumped on the wooden bench of the train carriage being watched by her two guards who sit behind her.  In contrast to the dark and depressing depiction of the three individuals, the carriage itself is lit up by the warm light which streams through the windows at the rear of the compartment and which bathes the entire space.

The Return of the Catch by Joaquin Sorolla (1894)
The Return of the Catch by Joaquin Sorolla (1894)

His realist art also embraced what the Spanish termed costumbrismo, which was the pictorial interpretation of local everyday life, mannerisms, and customs.   This kind of art depicted particular times and places, rather than of humanity in an abstract form.   In many instances costumbrismo was often satirical and often moralizing, but it was careful not to offer or even imply any particular analysis of the society it depicted, unlike proper realism art.  In less satirical works costumbrismo took on a romantic folklore flavour.  A fine example of this type of work was a painting entitled The Return of the Catch which Sorolla completed in 1894 and which received critical acclaim when it was shown at the 1895 Paris Salon.   It was subsequently acquired by the Musée du Luxembourg.  He painted a number of similar pictures depicting Valencian fisherman at work bathed in the dazzling Mediterranean light such as his 1894 painting entitled Return from Fishing and his 1903 painting, Afternoon Sun.

Sad Inheritance by Joaquín Sorolla (1899)
Sad Inheritance by Joaquín Sorolla (1899)

By 1895 Joaquín and Clotilda had three children.  Their daughter Maria was born in 1890, their son Joaquín in 1892 and their youngest child Elena in 1895.  In 1899 Sorolla painted what was to become his most famous and most moving picture.  It was entitled Sad Inheritance and I talked about this work in My Daily Art Display of Jan 31st 2011.  It is a poignant work featuring a monk and a group of children, crippled by polio, who are seen bathing in the sea at Valencia.   Sorolla received his greatest official recognition for this work of art, the Grand Prix and a medal of honour at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, and a year later he received the medal of honour at the National Exhibition in Madrid in 1901.

In my third and final blog about Joaquín Sorolla I will feature some of his family portraits, look at the Sorolla Museum in Madrid and conclude the life story of this wonderful Spanish artist.

Joaquín Sorolla (part 1)

Self Portrait by Joaquín Sorolla (1909)
Self Portrait by Joaquín Sorolla (1909)

I have said on a number of occasions that when one is in a large city which has one or maybe two famous large art museums, and when one is time-limited, one should search around and look for a smaller gallery which may have hidden treasures to offer.  The art on display in smaller museums can be taken in on one visit and there is no feeling of having to rush from room to room, constantly looking at ones watch to try and see as much as one can and ultimately seeing very little.  Madrid is famous for its three large art museums the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Queen Sophie but once again thanks to my daughter, who was my travelling companion on this trip, I discovered a pure gem of a museum – The Sorolla, which was just a few stops on the Metro from the city centre.  In my blogs I want to offer you a taste of what you would get if you visit the museum dedicated to one of Spain’s best loved artists, show you some of the Spanish painters work and look at his life story.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida was born into a humble household in Valencia in February 1863.  His parents were Joaquín Sorolla Gascón and Concepción Bastida who were retailers.  Joaquín and his younger sister Concha were orphaned in 1865 when both their parents died from the cholera epidemic which had swept through and ravaged the Spanish city.  Joaquín and Concha went to live with their maternal aunt, Isabel Bastida and her husband José Piqueres, a locksmith by trade.  Joaquín’s early schooling was not a success with the young boy being inattentive during lessons and was happy to doodle and draw in his exercise books to pass the time away.  His lack of progress at the school came to the attention of his uncle who withdrew him and took him on as an apprentice at his workshop.  However, owing to his love of drawing, when Joaquín was fourteen years old, his uncle arranged for him to attend drawing classes in the evening at the city’s Escuelade Artesanos where his artistic ability astounded his teachers, including the sculptor Cayetano Capuz.   The following year, 1878, he enrolled on a three-year course at Valencia’s prestigious Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Carlos.  It was whilst attending the art school that he met and became friends with a fellow student, Juan Antonio Perez.  He was soon introduced to Juan’s family.  Juan’s father, Antonio Garcia Perez was a photographer and was very impressed with Sorolla’s art work, so much so that he gave him a job at his photography studio as an illuminator.  This opportunity allowed Sorolla to leave his uncle’s workshop and concentrate on his artwork and discover the world of photography.  He learnt all about the framing of a subject and the manipulation of light which would prove a boon to him when he started to paint seaside and beach scenes.   This “new world” of photography fascinated many artists of the time and the likes of the French pair of Impressionists, Degas and Caillebotte were accomplished amateur photographers.

The Shout of the Palleter by Joaquín Sorolla (1881)
The Shout of the Palleter by Joaquín Sorolla (1881)

 Joaquín won many awards whilst studying at Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Carlos and at the end of his time there, and buoyed by his success, he sent off three seascapes to the Madrid National Exhibition.   He travelled to Madrid on a couple of occasions and visited the Prado where he painted copies of the great Masters.   In 1884, in the hope of attaining a monetary scholarship from the Valencia Provincial Council, he submitted a number of paintings to them, one of which was entitled The Shout of the Palleter, which was a historical painting recording the event in Valencia when one of its inhabitants Vincent Doménech in 1808, incensed by the French occupation of his country stood in the square urging people to rebel against the French tyranny.  He uttered his famous words:

“…Jo, Vicent Doménech, un pobre palleter, li declare la guerra a Napoleó. ¡Vixca Ferran sèptim! ¡Muiguen els traïdors!…”

(I, Vincent Doménech, a poor and simple worker, declare war against Napoleon.  Long live Ferdinand.  Death to the traitors.)

Sorolla painted the picture in the bullring of Valencia which he transformed into a huge studio and which was bathed in brilliant sunlight.  The stage-managed scene was a triumph and the Valencia Provincial Council awarded him a three-year scholarship to study art at the Spanish Academy in Rome. 

Father Jofré Protecting a Madman by JoachínSorolla (1887)
Father Jofré Protecting a Madman by JoachínSorolla (1887)

One of the conditions attached to the scholarship was that he regularly sent back work to the Council to prove that he was making good use of his time.   One of the paintings he duly sent back to Valencia was his 1887 work entitled Father Jofré Protecting a Madman.  This historical painting was based on the story of Father Joan-Gilabert Jofré, a friar of the Valencian Mercedarian Order, who, on  February 24, 1409, was on his way from the convent of the Plaza de la Merced to the Cathedral of Valencia.   On his way there he passed along the street of Martín Mengod,  the ancient street of the silver workers, next to the church of Santa Catalina.  On entering the street he was greeted with a great commotion.   Before him, he saw a group of children who were hitting and making fun of a mentally ill man who lay on the ground before them.   In those days it was believed by many that somebody who was mentally ill was possessed by the devil.  Father Jofré immediately berated the children and took the helpless man with him to the convent of the Order of Mercy, where he was given shelter and cure for his wounds.  Father Jofré would go on to found the world’s first lunatic asylum.

After his three year scholarship came to an end, Joaquín Sorolla continued to live in Rome and for a time in Assisi but on two occasions between 1885 and 1889 he returns to his home city of Valencia.

 

…….to be continued.

Sad Inheritance by Joaquín Sorolla

Sad Inheritance by Joaquín Sorolla (1900)

 My Daily Art Display artist of the day is the Spanish prolific painter and illustrator, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida who was born in Valencia in 1863.  Both his father, also named Joaquin and his mother Concepción died of cholera when he was only two years of age, leaving him and his younger sister Concha orphaned and brought up by their maternal aunt and uncle.  From an early age Joaquín acquired a great love for art and developed into a fine young artist, winning major prizes for his works at the Academy of Valencia.  At the age of 18 he travelled to Madrid and spent time studying the works of art of the Masters at the Museo del Prado.   Military service temporarily put an end to his art studies but on its completion, he applied for, and was granted a four year scholarship to study painting in Rome

In 1888 he returned to his home town, Valencia and married Clotilde García del Castillo a girl he had met almost nine years earlier when he was working at her father’s studio.  At this time Joaquín had established himself as an artist in Spain and by the age of 30 his paintings had been exhibited in Madrid, Paris, Venice, Munich, Berlin and Chicago.  He won  numerous gold medals in major international art exhibitions and by the time the twentieth century had arrived, he was recognized as one of the world’s greatest living artist

My Daily Art Display today was Joaquín Sorolla’s painting Sad Inheritance which he completed in 1899.  This was a very large oil on canvas painting measuring 284cms wide and 208cms high.  The painting was in tune with Sorolla’s desire of capturing the immediacy of everyday life, warts and all.  This is often termed Social Realism.  Social Realist artists try to illustrate people and their lives in a realistic way and because of this it is often the case that people in their paintings are not continually shown as beautiful, attractive and happy.  It is often the case that these Social Realism artists will focus on the elderly and the sick, the sad and the insane or those people who have to endure a disability.

The subject matter of the painting Sad Inheritance is a party of crippled children bathing at the sea in Valencia under the watchful eye of a monk.  It was in the late nineteenth century that a polio epidemic struck the Valencia area and in the painting one can see two of the boys affected by this affliction.  When Sorolla exhibited this painting in the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900 he was awarded the Grand Prix and a medal of honour.  A year later he received the medal of honour at the National Exhibition in Madrid.  Award after award followed for Sorolla and in 1906 following a special exhibition of over five hundred of his paintings in Paris, he was appointed Officer of the Legion of Honour.  From then on Sorolla was inundated with commissions.

Sorolla suffered a paralysing stroke in 1920 and he died three years later in 1923 aged 60.  His former home in Madrid is now a museum dedicated to his work.