Rags to Riches story of Joaquin Sorolla

by Jacky Pett

Following our AGM on 26th April, Dr Anne Anderson treated us to an exclusive tour of the life and works of Joaquin Sorolla.

Despite the name not ringing any bells for me, the pictures Anne sent in advance certainly did. It turned out there had been an exhibition at the National Gallery at which these beach scenes were featured. I must have seen them online…

Catalan’s own

Sorolla is Catalan, hence his name is not the Castillian spelling. He was born in Valencia in 1863, and was adopted after his parents succumbed to various ills. This was a stroke of luck, as he came to a family who recognised his drawing talent, and was admitted to Valencia’s Art Academy relatively early.

If you take a trip to Valencia you will find Sorolla everywhere – a whole walking tour of places related to him. But most of his painting took place on the beach, at Cabanyal. What started as a simple recording of honest fisherman at work (with oxen pulling the boats into and out of the water) developed into amazing studies of light on and through sails, and even in the shade of the backstreets where the women worked mending them.

He moved to Madrid, where he is exhibited in the Prado, but he also built a studio house there, for himself and his family, which has artworks displayed all over the walls.

His wife and daughter are featured in the painting of him painting them on the beach at Cabanyal. Huge canvases on a windswept beach. How did he keep the sand out of his oils? Or stop the canvas tipping over?

He died a rich man in 1923, thanks in part to making good in the American market, and is recognised as Spain’s most important artist of his time. That ‘of his time’ is a sop to Velasquez and El Greco!

I’d really love a trip to Valencia and Madrid to see more. Thank you to Anne for an excellent talk, and looking forward to more.

You can see more of Anne Anderson’s talks on her YouTube Channel (Anne Anderson Art and Design History), and via her website, which also gives details of tours she is leading.

anne anderson