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  • Brittney West

Museum Story

This essay is a review of the Joaquin Sorolla Museum in Madrid, Spain. Written for a travel writing course, it needed to vividly describe two paintings, include quotes from other visitors, and describe the museum grounds.

An Artist’s Home

Many of Madrid’s buildings are rather unassuming. Unless it has the same grandeur as an 18 century cathedral, why look any closer? But, tucked behind the common facades are evidence of Madrid’s history. Museo Sorolla, a museum hidden behind a brick wall divided by an ornate gate, is one of those places.

Located in the Chamberi neighborhood of Madrid, this museum displays the work of Spain’s most famous impressionist, Joaquin Sorolla. It is situated in his house, the carved wooden furniture, painting supplies, and gardens untouched. The museum experience begins in the store room, moves on to his old office, his studio with its vaulted ceiling, his white marble living room, and his dining room still decorated with a fresco that Sorolla painted himself. The deep red first floor walls are decorated with his canvas paintings.

“This is the first time that I’ve seen a house as a museum”, explains Linda, a tourist from South Korea who was visiting the museum off a recommendation from her Airbnb host.

Sorolla’s house became a museum when it was turned over to the state in 1932 after his wife’s death as a part of her will and her desire to create a museum for her husband. It displays many of his paintings and other art he collected over his life, like the many church fonts that decorate a hallway wall.

Sorolla (1863-1923) began his art education when he was nine years old in Valencia, Spain eventually moving to Madrid to study master paintings in the Museo del Prado. He went on to study in Rome under Francisco Pradilla the director of the Spanish Academy and Paris with Emilio Sala, adjusting his style and learning about modern art. He settled in Madrid in 1890 with his wife, muse, and mother of his three children, Clotilde.

Many of his paintings depict everyday human events experienced with his family either at home or at a beach in Valencia or Pais Vasco, all in his unique style. Sorolla is categorized as an impressionist painter, but is differentiated because of his use of light in his paintings. He played with the natural light that fell on cloth and water earning him the title of illuminist.

As a part of his impressionist style, Sorolla painted with strokes of colors that would not traditionally appear next to each other, allowing the human eye to create the final color of the image instead of creating the final color on a palate. This technique is seen clearly in El bano de caballo (The Horse’s Bath). This painting depicts a man in a straw hat leading a white horse out of the ocean in Sorolla’s beloved Valencia.

Sorolla uses different colors to depict a moving blue ocean. He combines blues, whites, greens and purples along with yellow to create light and shadow. The olive green, dusty lavender, and shades of blue would not necessarily match when painted in stripes next to each other. But, with this combination, Sorolla creates the deep blue of dark wash denim when the water is deep or when a cloud covers the sun juxtaposed with the light, clear blue of a newborn baby’s eyes like when the sun hits it just right.

Manuel, an employee at Museo Sorolla says, “My favorite painting is La bata rosa (The Pink Robe) because of its color”. The painting portrays one woman helping another out her bathing suit of a pink hue that is somewheres in between salmon the color of a light pink rose. Light peaking through the wooden screen separating the women from the sand lightens the color to an almost beige. The bathing suit stands out against the blue of the sea and the white of the building behind the women highlighting the femininity of that moment.

Sorolla’s beautifully ordinary seashore scenes gained him a reputation in the United States. Between 1912 and 1919 Sorolla painted fourteen canvases depicting peoples, costumes, and traditions that were beginning to disappear in Spain for the Hispanic Society of America in New York. Those paintings are still on display today.

Additionally, Sorolla visited the White House in 1909 to paint of portrait of then president William Howard Taft. The Portrait of Mr. Taft, President of the United States is in the Taft Museum of Art in Ohio and the framed picture that Taft sent to Sorolla in thanks can be found in Museo Sorolla on a chest under the stairs.

The upstairs portion of the house hosts temporary exhibitions. It currently displays an exhibit entitled Sorolla: un jardin para pintar (Sorolla: a garden to paint). Sketches, paintings, and tiles from gardens in Rome, Andalucia, Seville, and Granada that inspired his very own garden and Andalusian courtyard on the property that greets the visitor off the street. This art will be on display until January 20, 2019.

Museo Sorolla is open Tuesday-Saturday 9:30am -8pm and Sundays 10am-3pm. Free entry is available on Sundays and Saturday from 10am-3pm. General Admission is €3 ($3.40 at $1.13 to €1).

Fact Box:

c/ General Martínez Campos, 37 - 28010 Madrid



Telephone No.: (0034) 913101584 (from 9:00 am to 2pm)

Iglesia (Line 1) Rubén Darío (Line 5) Gregorio Marañón (Lines 7 and 10)

Parking: Zurbano, 68 General Martínez Campos, 42 duplicate

Closed Monday. Tuesday-Saturday: 9:30 am - 8 pm Sundays and public holidays: 10 am - 3 pm

Free admission: Saturdays (from 2pm to 8 pm), Sundays, and these days: 18th April, 18th May, 12th October and 6th December

General Admission €3. Tickets can be purchased online or on site.

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