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‘Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light’ exhibition at The National Gallery

posted on 27/03/19

Known as Spain’s Impressionist, The National Gallery exhibition ‘Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light’ celebrates the first UK retrospective of the artist since 1908, when Sorolla himself mounted an exhibition at London’s Grafton Galleries.

Through sixty works the artists repertoire of genre scenes of Spanish life, portraits, landscapes and the luminous beach scenes for which he is most renowned, are played out in a flourishing oeuvre. From the 1890s when Sorolla launched his career with a series of monumental canvases depicting the hardships of Spanish life, to 'The Siesta' of 1911 whose fluid forms begin to verge on abstraction, the exhibition journeys through the stylistic and contextual developments which span Sorolla's career.  

'The Return from Fishing', 1894, © Musée d'Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt. 'The Siesta', 1911, © Museo Sorolla, Madrid.

Having grown up by the coast, Sorolla’s love of sunlight and the sea is championed in his candid depictions of hedonistic days by the beach. While it is these coastal leisure scenes which cemented his fame and popularity (particularly in the United States), Sorolla first gained international repute for major works tackling social subjects of the Spanish working class. 'The Return from Fishing' (1894, Paris, Musée d'Orsay), was bought by the French government; and 'Sewing the Sail' (1896, Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, Galleria Internazionale d'Arte Moderna di Ca' Pesaro, Venice), was acquired by the city of Venice. 

Bringing together works from across the world, one third of the paintings on display during the exhibition will be generously lent by the Museo Sorolla. One of Madrid’s most dazzling small museums which houses the largest extant collection of the artists works, we visit the Museo Sorolla on our tour of Art in Madrid (2–6 October 2019). Maintaining the original atmosphere of the artists home and studio, following Sorolla's death the house and garden was converted into a national museum at the bequest of his family.

Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light’ is now open until 7 July 2019 at The National Gallery.


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Top image: Detail of 'Sewing the Sail' by Joaquín Sorolla, 1896, © 2018 © Photo Archive - Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.