Sorolla at the National Gallery

Last week, the slates were stripped off our roof (preparing for a loft extension). This week has of course started with the very wettest of Cambridge days. Option (1): sit at home, fretting and listening out for more leaks through the tarpaulins (after an initial one last week was sorted). Option (2): go up to London for a long-planned concert. We sensibly if nervously went for option (2).

London outdoors was miserably wet too. But indoors at the National Gallery there was such sun and light and warmth at the exhibition Sorolla: Spanish Master or Light. Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863–1923), prolific and once greatly popular, was quite new to us: and we enjoyed this exhibition hugely — there is something life-affirming here. As the Guardian review put it, “It is hardly possible to stand before these enormous canvases, thick with paint, without feeling at least something of their appeal, a combination of the obvious and comfortable relish in their making, and the irreducible beauty of sunlight itself.” The exhibition is on for another month: the next time you are in London on a wet  and cheerless day, see it!

2 thoughts on “Sorolla at the National Gallery”

  1. David Makinson

    Absolutely! Extraordinary treatment of sunlight — for example in the canvas reproduced in the blog, which is huge and needs to be seen from the far side of the room. Another one whose beauty struck me: a small painting of a little boy on the beach, back to the observer, light glistening and dazzling from the water before him…

    On the other hand, the series that was commissioned by an American millionaire to represent various types of Spanish folkloric costumes, and which took the painter several years of hard work to do conscientiously in different parts of Spain, making him rich and famous in the USA in the process, seems to my eyes stilted and dull, of ethnographic interest only…

    But everyone will see the exhibition in their own way. It ends in July, and is well worth seeing before it closes. Who knows when or where there will be another like it? Well, the “Sewing the sail”, the one in the blog, belongs to the city of Venice and will perhaps be viewable there…

    1. Yes, very much agree with both your remarks! We also particularly loved the painting of the two girls and a boy running along the beach (shown in the Guardian review I linked to), and also the large paintings of Sorolla’s family in the final room. While the regional costume paintings seemed surprisingly lifeless genre painting of an uninteresting kind — a marked contrast indeed.

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