Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, Father Jofré protecting a madman 1887, Oil on canvas, 154 x 205 cm, Palau de la Generalitat, ValenciaWhen his formal education was completed in 1890 he went back to Madrid, where he thought it would be easier for him to develop his career as a painter. During his first years (1890 – 1895) in Madrid, he formed a family. Maria was his firstborn, then came Joaquin followed by Elena. At this time Sorolla was painting pictures with a narrative content as if telling a story. However, this social realism will not be of his interest for much longer. In 1892 he presented “A happy day” and “Another Marguerite” to the Exposicion Internacional de Bellas Artes where he won a first place medal for “Another Marguerite”. Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, Another Margarita, 1892, Oil on canvas, 200 x 130 cm, Washington University Gallery of Art, St. Louis In 1894, from the point of view of his artistic development, Sorolla went through one of the most crucial years of his career as a painter. He realised what type of art he was looking for as he was painting “The return from fishing”. He is not telling a story of any type, he is just true to what he sees and how he sees it. Scenes mainly painted outside under strong light with white as a predominant colour. The Marques de Lozoya wrote: There is a moment in every artist’s career which usually follows many years of strenuous effort, in which experiences are accumulated in an intuition of marvelous clarity; the artist’s vision becomes precise and clear; the paths that lead to success are firmly perceived and easily and happily pursued, without any effort at all… For Sorolla, this moment arrived with his first beach scenes: La Vuelta de la Pesca and Pescadores Valencianos. These paintings do not resemble any of those he had painted before and in all of them, we find the vigour of the best of Spanish painting. From this point onwards subject matter is of no importance… Sorolla sees only his personal interpretation of light, shadows, and the soft and rich penumbra interrupted by reflections of the sun through foliage and fabrics. In 1900 Sorolla took part in the Universal Exhibition of Paris where he gained international recognition and met other painters such as Sargent and Zorn. From 1904 to 1908 Sorolla had reached a maturity as an artist and was consistent with his work. In 1909 he traveled to America to take part in an exhibition at the Hispanic Society in New York. The exhibition was a complete success and he sold nearly 150 works. He returned to Valencia where he painted at the beaches of Javea as well as northern Spain and southern France. Focusing mainly on light and colour, rather than form and detail. Sorolla also painted portraits throughout his career. Although he didn’t like being called a portrait artist he was indeed one of the most popular ones at that time. In 1911 he was commissioned by the Hispanic Society in New York to prepare a number of decorative paintings showing the history of Spain and Portugal. This was Sorolla’s largest commission ever. The paintings were created to arrange together as a large mural of 70m wide and 4m high. Sorolla spent most of his time during the next years between 1911 and 1919 working on this commission. He traveled around Spain capturing the different identities of the regions in a rather picturesque way. Yet, he managed to paint some seascapes and beach paintings as he always loved. Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, Mending the Sail, 1896, Oil on canvas, 302 x 220 cm, Museo d’Arte Moderna di Ca Pesaro, Venice In 1920 soon after he finished his commission with the Hispanic Society, he had a stroke that brought his paintings to a halt until his death 3 years later. He died in 1923 at the age of 60 after dedicating his entire life to painting. Interview to Sorolla in 1913:
- Maestro: What would you like to be? What would you like to have been?
- Me? A painter!… Nothing but a painter!…
- It’s just that, sometimes when great masters achieve fame and glory, they feel a certain nostalgia for something they haven’t got.
- No, not me… no, a painter!!… A painter!!… Nothing but a painter!… If you had been able to follow my life, step by step, at my side all the way, you would be convinced that I have never wanted to be, nor do I want to be, nor will I ever want to be anything but a painter. Right?
- Are there any painters in your family?
- Not one; when I was a small child they sent me to school and I began to paint monkeys… And I am still painting them! Of course! That’s my vocation! Right?
- Did you study for any particular profession?
- To be a painter. I tell you!… Instead of learning to read and write, I painted monkeys, and that’s the way I became a painter, who abandoned all other studies. I can tell you that even today it is very difficult for me to spell correctly! Right?… We painters would like to speak with colour… We also live the life of colour, line, expression.