His paintings are as smooth “as buddah” The way Bastida stroked his paintings gave them a fluid bettery feeling adding to the emotionally charged subject matter. His mastery of color and composition ranks up there with the greats of all time. A truly splendid painter.
Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida was the eldest child born to a tradesman, also named Joaquin, and his wife, Concepcion Bastida. His sister, Concha, was born a year later. In August 1865 both children were orphaned when their parents died, possibly from cholera. They were thereafter cared for by their maternal aunt and uncle.
He received his initial art education, at the age of fourteen, in his native town, and then under a succession of teachers including Cayetano Capuz, Salustiano Asenjo. At the age of eighteen he traveled to Madrid, vigorously studying master paintings in the Museo del Prado. After completing his military service, at twenty-two Sorolla obtained a grant which enabled a four year term to study painting in Rome, Italy, where he was welcomed by and found stability in the example of F. Pradilla, the director of the Spanish Academy in Rome. A long sojourn to Paris in 1885 provided his first exposure to modern painting; of special influence were exhibitions of Jules Bastien-Lepage and Adolf von Menzel. Back in Rome he studied with Jose Benlliure, Emilio Sala, and Jose Villegas.
In 1888 Sorolla returned to Valencia to marry Clotilde Garcia del Castillo, whom he had first met in 1879, while working in her father’s studio. By 1895 they would have three children together: Maria, born in 1890, Joaquin, born in 1892, and Elena, born in 1895. In 1890 they moved to Madrid, and for the next decade Sorolla’s efforts as an artist were focussed mainly on the production of large canvases of orientalist, mythological, historical, and social subjects, for display in salons and international exhibitions in Madrid, Paris, Venice, Munich, Berlin, and Chicago.
His first striking success was achieved with Another Marguerite (1892), which was awarded a gold medal at the National Exhibition in Madrid, then first prize at the Chicago International Exhibition, where it was acquired and subsequently donated to the Washington University Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. He soon rose to general fame and became the acknowledged head of the modern Spanish school of painting. His picture The Return from Fishing (1894) was much admired at the Paris Salon and was acquired by the state for the Musee du Luxembourg. It indicated the direction of his mature output.
An even greater turning point in Sorolla’s career was marked by the painting and exhibition of Sad Inheritance (1899), an extremely large canvas, highly finished for public consideration. The subject was a depiction of crippled children bathing at the sea in Valencia, under the supervision of a monk. The painting earned Sorolla his greatest official recognition, the Grand Prix and a medal of honour at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, and the medal of honour at the National Exhibition in Madrid in 1901.
With this painting Sorolla ceased his career as a salon artist, and never returned to a theme of such overt social consciousness. At the same time, a series of preparatory oil sketches for Sad Inheritance were painted with the greatest luminosity and bravura, and foretold an increasing interest in shimmering light and of a medium deftly handled. Sorolla thought well enough of these sketches that he presented two of them as gifts to American artists; one to John Singer Sargent, the other to William Merritt Chase.
After his death, Sorolla’s widow left many of his paintings to the Spanish public. The paintings eventually formed the collection that is now known as the Museo Sorolla, which was the artist’s house in Madrid. The museum opened in 1932.
Sorolla’s work is represented in museums throughout Spain, Europe, and America, and in many private collections in Europe and America. In 1933, J. Paul Getty purchased ten Impressionist beach scenes done by Sorolla, several of which are now housed in the J. Paul Getty Museum.
In 2007, many of his works were exhibited at the Petit Palais in Paris, France, alongside those of John Singer Sargent, a contemporary who painted in a similar style.