A painter and graphic artist especially known for his lighting effects on canvas and rich coloration, Joaquin Sorolla Y Bastida was from Valencia, Spain. His subjects were portraits, landscapes and genre, and he also did book illustrations. He was a plein-air painter, which was revolutionary in late 19th century Spain, and his style was influenced by Impressionism but dominated by Luminism. Unlike many of his contemporaries who were influenced by the abstract movements from France and Germany, Joaquin Sorolla stayed with recognizable subjects, which became increasingly outmoded into the 20th century.
As a young man in Valencia, Joaquin Sorolla began the study of art at age fifteen, and then went to Madrid where he copied Old Master paintings in the Museo del Prado. Winning a scholarship, he spent four years studying in Rome, and during this time he developed his skills in working with lighting effects. When he returned to Paris, he discovered demand for his work, especially after his entries in the 1901 Exposition Universelle.
Many of his early paintings had religious and social themes, and he was much in demand for portraits with sitters including Louis Comfort Tiffany, artist; King Alfonso XIII of Spain; and William Howard Taft, President of the United States. But as Sorolla’s career moved along, he turned away from that and focused on works with “blinding light and vibrant color”, (Saint Andre) many of them being Valencien beach scenes.
In the United States, Archer Milton Huntington, promoting the Hispanic Society of America, commissioned Joaquin Sorolla to do a series of paintings about Spain. The artist devoted seven years (1912-1919) to the multi-paneled work and upon completion was exhausted by the intense labor. The next year he had a stroke, and three years later died.
After his death, art scholars and critics tended to ignore his work and its place in art history. However, an 1989 show in New York stirred renewed interest as did a book by Edmund Peel, The Painter Joaquin Sorolla. His house in Madrid is now the Museo Sorolla, dedicated to the works of his career by his widow who determined that her husband’s paintings be left in a way that was accessible by the people of Spain. The J. Paul Getty Museum has work by Joaquin Sorolla, beginning with a purchase in 1933 by Mr. Getty of ten of his paintings.