Joaquin Sorolla’s Figura en blanco, Biarritz, 1906.
MADRID - Although renowned for his effervescent sun-drenched scenes of the Valencian coast: boats with billowing sails; oxen bringing in the catch; the waves lapping on beaches punctuated by fishermen and women, girls and boys, the best place for seeing the work of Joaquin Sorolla in Spain is in the heart of land-locked Madrid.
Sorolla’s imposing house and gardens, now the Museo Sorolla, on Paseo del General Martinez Campos was designed for his family in 1911. It is a haven of calm in the turbulent Spanish metropolis.
It is always a pleasure to soak up the atmosphere here in one of the great artists' houses open to the public. This time I’ve come to see a new exhibition devoted to his wife Clotilde, mother of his three children, devoted friend, confidant and life-long love.
Aurora Zubillaga and I in front of Joaquin Sorolla’s Clotilde con traje gris.
Appropriately, for portraits of one so dear, this special exhibition is in what were originally the Sorolla family's bedrooms. On entering, I am struck by how Clotilde's natural good looks and bearing were suited to the fashions of her day. Her quiet elegance is captured in such works as Clotilde García delCastillo, 1890, and Figura en blanco, Biarritz, 1906. Having known each other over so many years, it is their implicit intimacies that truly mark out Sorolla's depictions of his wife: the honest demeanour as expressed in such works as Clotilde con traje gris, 1900.
Joaquin Sorolla’s Clotilde García delCastillo, 1890.
Venturing further, I am delighted to find a cabinet displaying letters between the couple. When they were apart they wrote to each other every day. The relationship that Sorolla so ably rendered in paint is supported by these written exchanges. “I do not believe that painting itself could compensate if you were not here to make me happy. The Lord provides me with everything,” writes Sorolla to Clotilde. “Painting and loving you.”