Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida artprints

A great painter of the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida is undoubtedly one of the best-known artists in the history of Spanish painting. With his luminist style, inspired by impressionist painting and realism, and his canvases on a wide range of themes, from historical painting to portraits and costume genre painting, he left his mark on the history of art and is considered a true specialist in light, colour and composition.


Discover some of the finest paintings by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, one of Spain's greatest painters, including "The White Boat, Javea", an oil on canvas commissioned by the Hispanic Society of America; "The Bath", a painting of children on the beach at Javea, near his native Valencia; and the oil painting "Walk by the Sea", with its technique directly inspired by Impressionist painting.


Treat yourself to a reproduction of one of the finest paintings available in the catalogue by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, the essential Spanish artist of the 19th and 20th centuries, and find out more about his biography.


Biography of Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida


Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida's beginnings: realism and official painting


Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida was born in the second half of the 19th century, in 1863, in the Spanish city of Valencia. The son of a merchant, he quickly developed a passion for the arts, which he studied from an early age at the Valencian Craftsmen's School. Although he had learnt academic art, Joaquin Sorolla was not recognised when he started out among the young Spanish painters, as the works he exhibited at his first exhibition in Madrid did not correspond closely enough to the official art favoured by the Academy of Fine Arts in the Spanish capital. 


It was in this context that the painter's compositions began to change. After studying the works of Realist and Baroque masters such as Velázquez, he produced his first canvases with historical and religious themes, such as his "Study of Christ" and his paintings, in the purest pictorial tradition of Realist and historical painting, "Defence of the Montéléon Artillery Park" and "The Cry of the Straw Merchant". Under the guidance of his teacher Gonzalo Salva, Joaquin Sorolla began to make a name for himself, winning several medals at regional and national exhibitions. 

However, the realist painter did not wish to confine himself to his own way of painting, and he expanded his vision of art with trips to Rome and Paris, where he discovered foreign painters, particularly through the academicism of the Italian Renaissance, and above all Impressionist paintings, by the leading French artists of the late 19th century. In 1888, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida married Clotilde Garcia del Castillo, with whom he had 3 children, Maria, Joaquin and Elena, who were a real influence on the Spanish painter's paintings, as in his oil on canvas "Elena and Maria on horseback in the Valenciennes", his painting "Maria in the port of Jávea", or his oil painting "Elena among the roses".

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, a pioneer of luminism

At the very end of the 19th century, the themes used in the paintings of Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida turned to Costumbrismo and its depiction of Spanish customs. The painter's style was also evolving, moving away from traditional academic painting, under the influence of the early Impressionist painters whose works he had studied in Paris a few years earlier.
For Joaquin Sorolla, the Impressionist style, with its tones and effects of light, was a gateway to a new way of painting, and opened a new page in his art. Although his brushstrokes remained in the tradition of realism, his palette became lighter, giving way to the interplay of light and shadow, paving the way for the luminist movement, of which the Spanish painter would be considered the precursor alongside a whole fringe of avant-garde Belgian artists who were contemporaries of his time.

The representation of Spain and consecration for Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida

Having settled in Madrid in 1889, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida quickly enjoyed great renown in Spain, the painter's name being known for his works depicting outdoor scenes, particularly by the Mediterranean Sea, reminding him of his native Valencia. It was during this period that numerous representations of the Valencian beach can be found, with his famous paintings "The Beach of Valencia", or "Sad Heritage", featuring scenes of everyday life, illustrating the modern life of his time. Joaquin Sorolla's fame even earned him a sculpture from his friend Ricardo Causarás Casaña, which won an award at the Madrid General Exhibition of Fine Arts.
Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida's representation of Spain and Spanish culture even crossed borders, reaching the Salon des Artistes Français (replacing the Salon officiel) in 1893, where he exhibited alongside the most illustrious representatives of contemporary modern art, neo-impressionism and the impressionist movement of the time, as well as at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, after which he was awarded the Légion d'Honneur in 1901. These successes opened the doors to America, and he carried out a number of commissions for the Hispanic Society of America in New York, including his famous paintings of children bathing in Javea, such as "The Bath", now on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and his huge panels known as the "Vision of Spain", depicting a whole gallery of characters in reproductions of the culture of the 14 Spanish regions of the time. 
At the beginning of the 20th century, the painter's work was renowned throughout Europe and the United States, making him the most famous Spanish painter of the period. He worked as a teacher at the Madrid School of Fine Arts, painting portraits of illustrious figures such as the King of Spain and famous politicians and writers. 
In 1920, while painting a portrait of the wife of the writer Ramón Pérez de Ayala in his garden, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida suffered a stroke that left him partially paralysed and unable to paint. He died 3 years later, in 1923, in his house in Madrid, next to that of the actress María Guerrero, at the age of 60.

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, an oeuvre of heterogeneous themes

Although today Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida is best known as one of the forerunners of the luminism artistic movement, with a pictorial style somewhere between realism, with costumbrist themes, and post-Impressionism, with a marked focus on the play of light, he also distinguished himself throughout his career in a variety of pictorial movements.
Whether in his early days in the art world, with more academic realist paintings, historical and religious themes, naturalist paintings depicting the seaside and a vision of Spain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, or portraits of politicians, writers and famous artists, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida drew his inspiration from famous painters to flesh out his work in completely different styles and themes. The influence of both Velázquez and Impressionism can be seen in the work of the Spanish painter, who remains one of the most renowned landscape, portrait, genre and history painters in the Fine Arts today. 
Today, his paintings can be found all over the world: in Spain at the Museo Nacional del Prado (Prado Museum) and the Museo Sorolla in Madrid, which is dedicated to him, and at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Valencia, his birthplace; in France at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, where you can see his famous oil on canvas, Return from Fishing: In the United States, at the Hispanic Society of America in New York, which holds one of the artist's largest collections, including the "Vision of Spain" series, and at MoMA in New York, where you can find one of Sorolla's most famous paintings: "The Bath, Javea".

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