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Joaquín Sorolla, “Self Portrait,” 1904, oil on canvas, 66 × 100.5 cm, Museo Sorolla, Madrid, © Museo Sorolla, Madrid

The first major exhibition in the UK for over a century of the artist known as Spain’s Impressionist, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863–1923), opened recently at the National Gallery.

“Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light” includes portraits, and genre scenes of Spanish life, as well as the landscapes, garden views, and beach scenes for which he is most renowned.

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Joaquín Sorolla, “My Wife and Daughters in the Garden,” 1910, oil on canvas, 166 × 206 cm, Colección Masaveu, © Fundación María Cristina Masaveu Peterson, 2013. Photo: Marcos Morilla

Filling the Sainsbury Wing exhibition galleries, the display features sixty works spanning the artist’s career, including important masterpieces on loan from public and private collections in Europe and the United States. This is the first UK retrospective of the artist since 1908, when Sorolla himself mounted an exhibition at London’s Grafton Galleries where he was promoted as the World’s Greatest Living Painter.

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Joaquín Sorolla, “The Painter Aureliano de Beruete,” 1902, oil on canvas, 115.5 × 110.5 cm, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, © Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

While it was his sun-drenched depictions of the life, landscapes, and traditions of Spain, as well as his gifts as a portraitist, that sealed his fame, Sorolla, who trained in Valencia and studied in Madrid and Rome, first won an international reputation for major works tackling social subjects. For the first time in the UK a series of these prized early social paintings will be brought together including his “The Return from Fishing” (1894, Paris, Musée d’Orsay), which was bought by the French government; and “Sewing the Sail” (1896, Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna di Ca’ Pesaro, Venice), which was acquired by the city of Venice.

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Joaquín Sorolla, “Portrait of Ralph Clarkson,” 1911, oil on canvas, 81.3 × 58.5 cm , Oregon Public Library & Gallery, © Oregon Public Library & Gallery / Photo: Bob Logsdon

Also displayed will be “Sad Inheritance!” (1899, Colección Fundación Bancaja, Valencia) kept in the Church of the Ascension on New York’s Fifth Avenue for over fifty years until it was returned to Spain in 1981.

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Joaquín Sorolla, “And They Still Say Fish is Expensive!,” 1894, oil on canvas, 151.5 × 204 cm, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, © Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

One third of the paintings in “Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light” will come from private collections, and another third will be generously lent by the Museo Sorolla, one of Madrid’s most dazzling small museums, which occupies the house and garden Sorolla designed and built for his family. The Museo, now a Spanish national museum, was created following his death from bequests by the artist’s family.

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Joaquín Sorolla, “Couple from Salamanca,” 1912, oil on canvas, 203 × 121 cm, Museo Sorolla, Madrid, © Museo Sorolla, Madrid
Joaquín Sorolla, “Young Fisherman, Valencia,” 1904, oil on canvas, 75 × 104 cm, Private collection, © Photo: Laura Cohen
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Joaquín Sorolla, “Monte Ulia, San Sebastián,” 1917, oil on canvas, 81 × 105 cm, Museo Sorolla, Madrid, © Museo Sorolla, Madrid
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Joaquín Sorolla, “Packing Raisins,” 1900, oil on canvas, 89 × 126 cm, Private collection, © Photo: Pablo Linés

“Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light” will be on view at the National Gallery (London) through July 7, 2019.

Related > Artists can learn how to paint “the color of light” like Sorolla has in this 15-hour video from Thomas Jefferson Kitts and Streamline Publishing:

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