Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida

Valencia, 1863 - Cercedilla, 1923

  • Breakwater at San Sebastián

    c. 1917
  • Galician Washerwomen

  • Garrochista. Seville

  • Rocks at Jávea and the White Boat

  • Selling Melons

  • Courtyard of the Casa Sorolla

  • Playing the Guitar

    c. 1889

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida was the son of Joaquín Sorolla, a merchant from Cantavieja (Teruel), and Concepción Bastida from Valencia. In 1865 he lost both his parents in a cholera epidemic; he and his sister Concha were taken in by their maternal aunt Isabel Bastida, who was married to the locksmith José Piqueres.

Sorolla studied at the Craft School in Valencia and later at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts in that city. During his student days he met the photographer Antonio García, who became his mentor and whose daughter Clotilde he married in 1888. The couple had three children, who were born between 1889 and 1895: María, Joaquín and Elena. In 1884 Sorrolla received a scholarship from the Diputación (provincial authorities) of Valencia to study in Italy, where he lived from 1885 to 1889. In 1890 he settled in Madrid. Over the course of the following decade he worked hard to establish a name for himself, taking part in numerous national and international exhibitions.

In 1900 Sorolla won a medal of honour at the Paris Exposition Universelle along with Henner, Kröyer, Zorn, Sargent, Orchardson, Corinth, Israëls, Lembach, Stuys, Alma Tadema, Thaulow, Seraf, Whistler and Klimt. From this point onwards he developed close friendships with several of these artists, especially Zorn, Sargent, and Kröyer. In 1905 he began to plan a series of major solo exhibitions supported by leading dealers and galleries.

The first took place in 1906 at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris, coinciding with the exhibition of Zorn’s work at the Galerie Durand-Ruel. Sorolla became the leading artist of the season in Paris, a fact which brought him European-wide fame. After this success, the Galerie Schulte staged a series of exhibitions in 1907 in Berlin, Cologne and Düsseldorf. This time critical and commercial success was sparse. In 1908 he attempted another show at the Grafton Gallery in London, which was organised by the art dealers Chesser, Mundy and Holt and supported by the painters Beruete and Sargent. However, due to incompetent promotion, the exhibition met with a mixed reception. Between 1909 and 1911 Sorolla travelled to the United States, where he showed his works in several cities. These exhibitions were supported by the Hispanist and collector Archer M. Huntington, who became Sorolla’s main patron in America and commissioned him to decorate the Hispanic Society’s library in New York with scenes of the different regions of Spain.

To perform this assignment Sorolla travelled tirelessly through Spain. This activity gradually took its toll on his health and in 1920 he suffered a stroke in 1920, which left him incapable of working. He died three years later.

Carmen Gracia