Sorolla – Spanish Master of Light

This new exhibition at the National Gallery presents the Spanish Master of Light Sorolla with a compelling collection of his finest works. Peter Gray reports.

Sorolla Spanish Master of Light at the National Gallery
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Often overlooked in favour of his countrymen, Picasso, Goya and Velázquez, this new exhibition at the National Gallery attempts to finally put Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida in the spotlight. It’s appropriate too, as the Spanish artist was widely regarded as the master of light during his lifetime.

The exhibition focuses on sixty key works spanning the course of Sorolla’s career with a selection of the seaviews, gardenscapes, and bathing scenes which helped establish the artist’s reputation in his homeland.  Many of the pieces in the exhibition are from private collections and several have never featured in a public exhibition before.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida was born in Valencia in Northern Spain in 1863. At the age of two, tragedy struck when Sorolla’s parents both died suddenly and the two year old was taken in by his aunt and uncle. From an early age Sorolla showed a talent for art. At fourteen, the aspiring artist began to study at the local art school in Valencia and when he reached 18 Sorolla moved to Madrid in order to increase his knowledge of the Spanish masters.

Greatly influenced by what he saw in Madrid, Sorolla’s work often echoed these early classical influences. Back in Madrid after a brief return to Valencia, Sorolla was to establish himself as one of the city’s greatest artists, winning a large number of prestigious commissions and also several prizes for art.  An early success was recorded at the Spanish National Exhibition in Madrid. Sorolla’s ‘Another Marguerite’ was awarded the coveted gold medal for painting. The award made Sorolla a famous figure in Spain and ensured that the prestigious commisions kept coming.

Years later, Sorolla’s ‘A Research’ and ‘Portrait of Dr Simarro at the Microscope’ would win the Prize of Honour at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts. These two works were composed in what had by then become Sorolla’s trademark classical style and the pictures gave a brilliant demonstration of Sorolla’s mastery of form and composition.

However, in 1906, when Sorolla staged his own exhibition at the Georges Petit Galleries in Paris, the artist’s work was already showing the first signs of an impressionistic bent with its focus on seascapes and sunny beaches. These paintings also helped demonstrate Sorolla’s remarkable ability to render the play of light.

Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light has been organised by the National Gallery and the National Gallery of Ireland. The exhibition will run from the 18th March 2019 to the  7th July 2019.

If you would like to know more about the exhibition, please click here.

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