Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light at the National Gallery
In the summer of 1908, the Grafton Galleries in London held a major selling exhibition of paintings by Joaquin Sorolla, then at the height of his powers. He was described in the catalogue as ‘the world’s greatest living painter’, consistent with a description of him in a Spanish essay the previous year as ‘grandson of Velazquez, son of Goya’.
Despite his clear position as the inheritor of the finest traditions of Spanish painting, and despite a highly successful show in Paris the previous year, the London exhibition was not a success. Few paintings were bought, none entered public collections and Sorolla largely disappeared from British consciousness. Consequently this major exhibition of this work is the first in the UK since 1908 and stands as a terrible rebuke to all those who walked past this huge talent some 110 years ago.
Like most people in the UK I was entirely ignorant of Sorolla and his work until I saw this exhibition. But what a revelation. Sorolla is a painter of enormous who is equally successful at society portraits, biting social commentary informal beach scenes, and landscapes and gardens. The common themes of his work across all these themes is his handling of light and colour, his ability to reproduce the sparkle of Spanish sun on the Mediterranean Seanad his mastery of the infinite variety of white. His pictures would warm the coldest interior and demonstrate a mastery of light that is the equal of any of the Impressionists.
The exhibition is on until early July and demands your attention.