Lot 48
  • 48

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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  • Buscando mariscos, Playa de Valencia
  • signed J Sorolla B and dated 1907 (lower right); inscribed No 58 on the reverse 
  • oil on canvas
  • 23 3/4 by 37 3/8 in.
  • 60.3 by 94.9 cm


Knoedler, Paris (acquired directly from the artist in 1912, no. 5407, transferred to New York, no. 12952, this transaction is further confirmed by the artist's wife Clotilde's personal notebook of 1912, now in the Museo Sorolla, in which she writes of the sale of "Niña buscando mariscos 6.000 pesetas")
Probably, Joseph Pulitzer II, St. Louis, Missouri (acquired from the above)
Thence by descent


London, Grafton Galleries, Exhibition of Paintings by Señor Sorolla y Bastida, May 4-July 4, 1908
The Art Institute of Chicago; City Art Museum of St. Louis, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, February 12-April 20, 1911, no. 121 (Chicago), no. 120 (St. Louis)
Probably, St. Louis, City Art Museum, Summer Exhibition, 1914 (as On the Beach and lent by Pulitzer)


Probably, "Rare Paintings Loaned by St. Louisans to Museum," Bulletin of the City Art Museum of St. Louis, vol. 1, no. 2, January 1915, p. 34
Bernardino de Pantorba, La Vida y La Obra de Joaquin Sorolla, estudio biografico y critico, 2nd edition, Madrid, 1970, p. 195, no. 1724


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work is in lovely condition. It is still on its original stretcher and is unlined. In the center of the left side there are two slightly raised lines of cracking, each measuring about 3 inches long. There is no instability to the paint layer and there have been no retouches. The work should be hung in its current state.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida painted the elegantly lyrical Buscando Mariscos, Playa de Valencia  (Hunting Shellfish, Beach in Valencia) late in 1907, as he closed out a particularly successful  year.  Working an appealing  variation on the theme of children playing in the surf which had become so closely associated with Sorolla’s considerable international success, Buscando Mariscos, Playa de Valenciadepicts a barefoot child standing in the breaking tide as she pokes the wet sand in search of buried clams.  While her crouching pose, one hand holding her skirt out of the water, and the afternoon sunlight filtering through her thin muslin dress speak to Sorolla’s committed observational skill, the pervasive violet and salmon tints that orchestrate a daringly simplified landscape attest to the artist’s increasing absorption in strikingly modern questions of pictorial abstraction and symbolism.

The young clam-digger’s kerchief and her plaid dress identify her as a child of a fishing village rather than as one of the young holiday-goers that Sorolla often featured in his Valencian beach scenes.  She carries no basket for her bounty, however, and there are no  fishing skiffs in the distance (a mainstay of many of Sorolla’s more descriptive Valencian scenes).  Instead, Sorolla  has left the horizonless landscape open and uncluttered around the girl, utilizing the broad canvas as a display for his bravura brushwork  and his exceptional color sense.  An otherwise commonplace tourist subject was transformed into a celebration of childish innocence, nature’s majesty, and an artist’s quite individual vision. 

Sorolla had begun his career in the 1880s with elaborately constructed social realist pictures that often explored uncomfortable truths of poverty or emphasized particularly Spanish content.  But his ambitions were as complex as his well-demonstrated skills;  and as Sorolla’s international exposure increased, he developed a confident balance of post-Impressionist techniques and more universally attractive subject matter – without ever sacrificing his distinctly Spanish flair. Beyond his often amazing facility with a paintbrush, Sorolla was also an astute businessman, parlaying very real successes at international art competitions in Paris or London into a series of several of the largest and most well-received one-man exhibitions through both Europe and the United States.   Buscando Mariscos, Playa de Valencia was featured in one of the first of these exhibitions, Sorolla’s one-man show at London’s Grafton Galleries in 1908.  In the following year, Sorolla sent many of the same paintings to an equally impressive show of his work in New York and Boston, fostering a particularly strong American interest in his painting.  When Sorolla  followed with a second American tour, to Chicago and St. Louis in 191, he (as well as his art) was widely celebrated, as the souvenir photo of Sorolla attests (fig. 1). Buscando Mariscos, Playa de Valencia was included in that St. Louis exhibition, and may well have caught the eye of one of the city’s leading figures, Joseph Pulitzer II, publisher of the city’s Post Dispatch,  although Pulitzer did not purchase the painting until the following year.    

This catalogue entry was written by Alexandra Murphy.

Please note that this work has been requested for the MAPFRE, Madrid venue of the Sorolla & America exhibition (September 23, 2014-January 11, 2015).