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Joaquín Sorolla | Impressionist painter | Part.1

Sorolla excelled in the painting of portraits, landscapes, and monumental works of social and historical themes.
His most typical works are characterized by a dexterous representation of the people and landscape under the sunlight of his native land.

  • Early life
Joaquín Sorolla was born on February 27, 1863 in Valencia, Spain. Sorolla was the eldest child born to a tradesman, also named Joaquin Sorolla, and his wife, Concepción Bastida. His sister, Concha, was born a year later. In August 1865, both children were orphaned when their parents died, possibly from cholera. They were thereafter cared for by their maternal aunt and uncle.
He received his initial art education at the age of 9 in his native town, and then under a succession of teachers including Cayetano Capuz, Salustiano Asenjo. At the age of eighteen he traveled to Madrid, vigorously studying master paintings in the Museo del Prado. After completing his military service, at twenty-two Sorolla obtained a grant which enabled a four-year term to study painting in Rome, Italy, where he was welcomed by and found stability in the example of F. Pradilla, the director of the Spanish Academy in Rome. A long sojourn to Paris in 1885 provided his first exposure to modern painting; of special influence were exhibitions of Jules Bastien-Lepage and Adolf von Menzel. Back in Rome he studied with José Benlliure, Emilio Sala, and José Villegas Cordero.
In 1888, Sorolla returned to Valencia to marry Clotilde García del Castillo, whom he had first met in 1879, while working in her father's studio. By 1895, they would have three children together: Maria, born in 1890, Joaquín, born in 1892, and Elena, born in 1895. In 1890, they moved to Madrid, and for the next decade Sorolla's efforts as an artist were focussed mainly on the production of large canvases of orientalist, mythological, historical, and social subjects, for display in salons and international exhibitions in Madrid, Paris, Venice, Munich, Berlin, and Chicago.
His first striking success was achieved with Another Marguerite (1892), which was awarded a gold medal at the National Exhibition in Madrid, then first prize at the Chicago International Exhibition, where it was acquired and subsequently donated to the Washington University Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. He soon rose to general fame and became the acknowledged head of the modern Spanish school of painting. His picture The Return from Fishing (1894) was much admired at the Paris Salon and was acquired by the state for the Musée du Luxembourg. It indicated the direction of his mature output.
Sorolla painted two masterpieces in 1897 linking art and science: Portrait of Dr. Simarro at the microscope and A Research. These paintings were presented at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts held in Madrid in that year and Sorolla won the Prize of Honor. Here, he presents his friend Simarro as a man of science who transmits his wisdom investigating and, in addition, it is the triumph of naturalism, as it recreates the indoor environment of the laboratory, catching the luminous atmosphere produced by the artificial reddish-yellow light of a gas burner that contrasts with the weak mauvish afternoon light that shines through the window. These paintings may be among the most outstanding world paintings of this genre.
  • Sad Inheritance
An even greater turning point in Sorolla's career was marked by the painting and exhibition of Sad Inheritance (1899, seen at left), an extremely large canvas, highly finished for public consideration. The subject was a depiction of crippled children bathing at the sea in Valencia, under the supervision of a monk. The polio epidemic that struck some years earlier the land of Valencia is present, possibly for the first time in the history of painting, through the image of the two affected children. The painting earned Sorolla his greatest official recognition, the Grand Prix and a medal of honor at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, and the medal of honor at the National Exhibition in Madrid in 1901.
A series of preparatory oil sketches for Sad Inheritance were painted with the greatest luminosity and bravura, and foretold an increasing interest in shimmering light and of a medium deftly handled. Sorolla thought well enough of these sketches that he presented two of them as gifts to American artists; one to John Singer Sargent, the other to William Merritt Chase. After this painting Sorolla never returned to a theme of such overt social consciousness.
  • Maturity
The exhibit at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900 won him a medal of honour and his nomination as Knight of the Legion of Honour; within the next few years Sorolla was honoured as a member of the Fine Art Academies of Paris, Lisbon, and Valencia, and as a Favourite Son of Valencia.
A special exhibition of his works-figure subjects, landscapes and portraits-at the Galeries Georges Petit in Paris in 1906 eclipsed all his earlier successes and led to his appointment as Officer of the Legion of Honour. The show included nearly 500 works, early paintings as well as recent sun-drenched beach scenes, landscapes, and portraits, a productivity which amazed critics and was a financial triumph. Though subsequent large-scale exhibitions in Germany and London were greeted with more restraint, while in England in 1908 Sorolla met Archer Milton Huntington, who made him a member of The Hispanic Society of America in New York City, and invited him to exhibit there in 1909. The exhibition comprised 356 paintings, 195 of which sold. Sorolla spent five months in America and painted more than twenty portraits.
Sorolla's work is often exhibited together with that of his contemporaries and friends, John Singer Sargent and Anders Zorn.
  • Portraits
Although formal portraiture was not Sorolla's genre of preference, because it tended to restrict his creative appetites and could reflect his lack of interest in his subjects, the acceptance of portrait commissions proved profitable, and the portrayal of his family was irresistible. Sometimes the influence of Velázquez was uppermost, as in My Family (1901), a reference to Las Meninas which grouped his wife and children in the foreground, the painter reflected, at work, in a distant mirror. At other times the desire to compete with his friend John Singer Sargent was evident, as in Portrait of Mrs. Ira Nelson Morris and her children (1911). A series of portraits produced in the United States in 1909, commissioned through the Hispanic Society of America, was capped by the Portrait of Mr.Taft, President of the United States, painted at the White House, and suggestive of convivial sessions between painter and president.
The appearance of sunlight could be counted on to rouse his interest, and it was outdoors where he found his ideal portrait settings. Thus, not only did his daughter pose standing in a sun-dappled landscape for María at La Granja (1907), but so did Spanish royalty, for the Portrait of King Alfonso XIII in a Hussar's Uniform (1907). For Portrait of Mr. Louis Comfort Tiffany (1911), the American artist posed seated at his easel in his Long Island garden, surrounded by extravagant flowers. The conceit reaches its high point in My Wife and Daughters in the Garden (1910, seen at right), in which the idea of traditional portraiture gives way to the sheer fluid delight of a painting constructed with thick passages of color, Sorolla's love of family and sunlight merged.
  • The Vision of Spain
Early in 1911, Sorolla visited the United States for a second time, and exhibited 152 new paintings at the Saint Louis Art Museum and 161 at the Art Institute of Chicago a few weeks later. Later that year Sorolla met Archie Huntington in Paris and signed a contract to paint a series of oils on life in Spain. These 14 magnificent murals, installed to this day in the Hispanic Society of America building in Manhattan, range from 12 to 14 feet in height, and total 227 feet in length. The major commission of his career, it would dominate the later years of Sorolla's life.
Huntington had envisioned the work depicting a history of Spain, but the painter preferred the less specific 'Vision of Spain', eventually opting for a representation of the regions of the Iberian Peninsula, and calling it The Provinces of Spain. Despite the immensity of the canvases, Sorolla painted all but one en plein air, and travelled to the specific locales to paint them: Navarre, Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Elche, Seville, Andalusia, Extremadura, Galicia, Guipuzcoa, Castile, Leon, and Ayamonte, at each site painting models posed in local costume. Each mural celebrated the landscape and culture of its region, panoramas composed of throngs of laborers and locals. By 1917 he was, by his own admission, exhausted. He completed the final panel by July 1919.
Sorolla suffered a stroke in 1920, while painting a portrait in his garden in Madrid. Paralyzed for over three years, he died on 10 August 1923. He is buried in the Cementeri de Valencia, Spain.
The Sorolla Room, housing the Provinces of Spain at the Hispanic Society of America, opened to the public in 1926. The room closed for remodeling in 2008, and the murals toured museums in Spain for the first time. The Sorolla Room reopened in 2010, with the murals on permanent display.
  • Legacy
After his death, Sorolla's widow, Clotilde García del Castillo, left many of his paintings to the Spanish public. The paintings eventually formed the collection that is now known as the Museo Sorolla, which was the artist's house in Madrid. The museum opened in 1932.
Sorolla's work is represented in museums throughout Spain, Europe, America, and in many private collections in Europe and America. In 1933, J. Paul Getty purchased ten Impressionist beach scenes made by Sorolla, several of which are now housed in the J. Paul Getty Museum.
In 2007 many of his works were exhibited at the Petit Palais in Paris, alongside those of John Singer Sargent, a contemporary who painted in a similarly impressionist-influenced manner. In 2009, there was a special exhibition of his works at the Prado in Madrid, and in 2010, the exhibition visited the Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba, Brazil.
From 5 December 2011 to 10 March 2012, several of Sorolla's works were exhibited in Queen Sofía Spanish Institute, in New York. This exhibition included pieces used during Sorolla's eight-year research for The Vision of Spain.
An exhibition titled Sorolla and America explored Sorolla’s unique relationship with the United States in the early twentieth century. The exhibition opened at the Meadows Museum at SMU in Dallas (13 December 2013 - 19 April 2014). From there it traveled to the San Diego Museum of Art (30 May - 26 August 2014) and then to Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid (23 September 2014 - 11 January 2015).
The Spanish National Dance Company honored the painter's The Vision of Spain by producing a ballet Sorolla based on the paintings. | © Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (Valencia, 27 febbraio 1863 - Cercedilla, 10 agosto 1923) è stato un pittore Spagnolo, è annoverato fra i rinnovatori della pittura spagnola in chiave impressionista ed anche tra i più prolifici, avendo un catalogo di più di 2.200 opere.
Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida nacque a Valencia in Spagna il 27 febbraio 1863. Rimasto orfano di entrambi i genitori a soli due anni d'età fu allevato nella famiglia di una zia materna insieme alla sorella Eugenia.
Manifestò presto la sua attitudine al disegno.
Dopo aver frequentato le scuole medie frequentò una scuola serale di disegno per artigiani e la Scuola Superiore di Belle Arti di San Carlo mentre lavorava nello studio dello zio.

Partecipò a diverse esposizioni dove passò inosservato nel clima accademico che dominava allora finché nel 1884 ottenne il primo riconoscimento alla Esposizione Nazionale con il quadro Defensa del Parque de Artillería de Monteleón, un quadro melodrammatico e tetro che dipinse espressamente per l'esposizione confidando a un amico: «qui per farsi conoscere e vincere una medaglia occorre dipingere morti».
Fu amico di famiglia del pittore valenciano José Benlliure Gil (1855-1937) il cui sfortunato figlio José Benlliure Ortiz (Peppino) (1884-1916) fu anche suo allievo.

Nel 1918 circa dipingerà anche il ritratto di Jose Luis Benlliure Lopez de Arana (1898-1981), architetto, figlio dello scultore Mariano Benlliure e della cantante Lucrezia Arana, cugino di "Peppino", che a sua volta andrà in esilio in Francia a causa della guerra civile spagnola.
A seguito del gran successo che ebbe a Valencia il suo quadro El crit del palleter avente per tema la Guerra d'indipendenza spagnola, ottenne un sussidio per andare a Roma a perfezionare la sua arte.

Dopo l'esperienza romana, in cui venne a contatto con la grande arte classica e rinascimentale, nel 1885 si recò a Parigi con il suo amico Pedro Gil.
A Parigi soggiornò sei mesi nei quali subì l'influenza degli impressionisti francesi.
Il quadro El entierro de Cristo dipinto di ritorno a Roma però non ebbe il successo sperato.
Nel 1888 sposò Clotilde García del Castillo, sorella di Juan Antonio García del Castillo, che aveva conosciuto quando frequentava l'Accademia di San Carlo. La coppia visse per un anno in Italia, ad Assisi.

Tornato in Spagna nel 1889 si stabilì a Madrid dove nell'arco di cinque anni riuscì ad affermarsi.
Strinse una forte amicizia con Aureliano de Beruete con cui condivideva le esperienze artistiche degli impressionisti spagnoli, come Darío de Regoyos, e gli ideali liberali e progressisti. Sarà il suo amico Beruete a organizzare per primo una mostra antologica dell'amico dopo la sua morte.
Nel 1894 fece un altro soggiorno a Parigi dove approfondì lo studio del "luminismo" tanto da diventare da allora in poi una costante della sua pittura dove il colore si identifica con la luce.

Fu letteralmente abbagliato dalla luce del Mediterraneo che trasferì sulle sue tele con colori vibranti applicati con pennellate sciolte e sicure.
Nel 1900 vinse il Gran Prix di Parigi, continuando con la sua pittura di denuncia sociale che tanto consenso aveva riscosso negli ultimi anni con opere come I encara diuen que el peix és car del 1895.
Da allora Valencia, sua città natale, lo consacrò suo cittadino illustre dedicandogli una strada.
Viaggiò molto in Inghilterra, Francia e in altri paesi europei facendo conoscere le sue opere. In un'esposizione a Parigi presentò più di cinquecento quadri che gli fruttarono un riconoscimento senza eguali non solo in Europa ma anche in America dove nel 1909 ottenne un altro strepitoso successo esponendo quadri come Sol de tarde o Nadadores. Nel 1911 espose al City Art Museum di St. Louis e nell'Art Institute di Chicago.

Tra il 1913-1919 dipinse quattordici giganteschi murales nelle sale della Hispanic Society of America di New York dove illustrò scene tipiche delle diverse regioni della Spagna e del Portogallo. La misura di quest'opera è di tre metri d'altezza per settanta di lunghezza: un autentico monumento alla hispanidad.
Nel 1914 fu nominato accademico e dopo aver terminato la monumentale opera insegnò tecnica del colore e della composizione nella Scuola di Belle Arti di Madrid, diffondendo il suo stile luminista nella società dell'epoca.

Altrettanto importante fu la sua produzione come ritrattista. Fra i personaggi più importanti da lui ritratti ricordiamo: Juan Ramón Jiménez, il re Alfonso XIII, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, José Ortega y Gasset.
La sua attività fu interrotta inaspettatamente nel 1920 a seguito di un infarto mentre stava dipingendo un ritratto. La morte lo colse in un luminoso giorno d'agosto, il 10, del 1923 nella sua casa di Cercedilla. A Madrid gli è stato dedicato il Museo Sorolla.