Spanish art is little known in the world, although there are some major exceptions: the history of Western art cannot be understood without Velázquez, just as the art of 1900 cannot be understood without Sorolla, the most celebrated painter – together with Sargent and Boldini – in the Europe of his time. In the Sorolla Year, which marks the centenary of his death, three Spanish art professionals – Jorge Coll, Artur Ramon, and Dámaso Berenguer – have worked together to organise an exhibition on the Valencian artist. We have been able to bring together some fifteen canvases from private collections that attest to the artistic qualities of one of the great masters of our painting.
The sea is the protagonist in Sorolla, with sunlight beaming on the waves, but so are his portraits, full of insight, and his landscapes, rendered with summary brushstrokes; these are the subjects that he worked on throughout his fruitful career. His paintings range from the social realism of his early years to the sketches for the costumbrista murals of the Hispanic Society in New York and his much celebrated depictions of Valencian beaches.
One cannot appreciate what one does not know, and part of the problem with the lack of international recognition of Spanish painting comes from the fact that it has never been widely exhibited and promoted. That is why this exhibition, which Colnaghi will present in Brussels, London, New York, and Madrid – the latter two cities where Sorolla was acclaimed in his lifetime – is so invaluable. Beyond its commercial aspect, it is important because it introduces and celebrates works for sale by one of the most sought-after and beloved Spanish artists, whose reputation was cemented in his own lifetime in Europe and in the United States. In the hundred years since his death, it has not ceased to grow and has made of him the undisputed leading figure of Spanish Impressionism.