Yesterday, Carolyn and I visited the wonderful museum of Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923). He was the most celebrated Spanish painter of his day. You can read about his life and career on Wikipedia, so I will simply share some subjective impressions of our visit.
The painting at the top of this post, of the boys at the beach of Valencia, shows Sorolla’s love of people, and his ability to express the magic of color and of life itself. A commentary on the walls of one of the rooms underscores Sorolla’s “ability to capture a fleeting impression, a momentary reflection, of vital and continuous movement.” This seems to me to be an exact description of haiku poetry, and it brings home again the understanding that all the arts–verbal, plastic, dance, and music–have this in common: that they capture the pathos and the beauty of the universal by an exquisite depiction of particular detail.
Here is another example of his love of people and the swirling colors of water:
I apologize for the poor quality of the photo, but this painting was high on a wall. Still, you can clearly see the amazing movement of the water as the girls wade hand in hand.
Many of his paintings are depictions of women at once beautiful and strong:
He once said that the weariness and patience of the women who fished translated directly into the tenderness and care of motherhood.
Sorolla was also most sympathetic to the hardship and contributions of common laborers, as exemplified by this famous painting hanging in the Prado:
It is entitled Y aun dicen que el pescado es caro: And they still say that fish is expensive. The young man is clearly dying, hurt in the line of work, demonstrating just how expensive fish really are. I was particularly struck by the compassion on the faces of the men attending the young man.
Finally, the museum is actually the home in Madrid that Sorolla shared with his beloved wife Clotilde and their three children. Even if there were no paintings, the house itself is an oasis of tranquility. Here is Carolyn resting in the garden:
Some of Sorolla’s most impressive work can be seen today in New York City, at the Hispanic Society of America’s building in Manhattan. There are 14 magnificent murals of the various provinces of Spain on permanent display. His home here in Madrid, however, is a gem well worth visiting.