Depicting the contrasting effects of light and shade, the realistic paintings of Spanish painter, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, are famous for their narrative and anecdotal themes combined with a variant of impressionism.
Celebrated as one of the most productive Spanish painters, Sorolla was born on February 27, 1863, in Valencia, Spain. Sorolla was orphaned at the age of two and thereafter lived with his maternal uncle and aunt. He displayed an early talent and began to study painting at the age of fifteen at the Academy of San Carlosin Valencia. At the age of eighteen, Sorolla went to Madrid, where he copied old masters' paintings in the Museo del Prado. At twenty-two Sorolla obtained a grant to study painting in Rome.
After studying in Rome and Paris, Sorolla returned to Valencia in 1888. Initially, he painted historical and social realist works and developed a high keyed painterly style. Sorolla experienced his first success with his painting “Otra Margarita” (1892). The painting was awarded a gold medal at the National Exhibition in Madrid and a first prize at the Chicago International Exhibition.
However, Sorolla received the greatest recognition for his genre paintings and landscapes. In 1897, Sorolla painted two masterpieces, ‘A Research' and ‘Portrait of Dr. Simarro at the microscope’. Joining two disciplines of art and science, these paintings won the Prize of Honour at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts, Madrid.
In 1900, Sorolla received the Grand Prix and a Medal of Honour for the painting ‘Sad Inheritance’ at National Exhibition Paris. In 1906, Sorolla put on an exhibition at the Georges Petit Galleriesin Paris which include 500 pieces of his artwork.
In 1909, Sorolla made a successful debut in the United States in a solo exhibition at the Hispanic Society in New York City. Contributing to his international fame, the Hispanic Society of America commissioned him to paint decorative scenes for its library in New York City in 1911.
Upon his return to Spain, Sorolla purchased a beach house in Valencia, on the Mediterranean shore and drew his inspiration from the dazzling light on the waters by his home. Influenced with impressionism and with the work of Adolph Menzel and Jules Bastien-Lepage, Sorolla's beach scenes are marked by sharp contrasts of light and shade, brilliant colors and vigorous brushstrokes.
After completing a major commission of his career the painter paralyzed over three years and died on August 10, 1923 and buried in the Cementeride Valencia, Spain.
Sorolla's widow left a large collection of his paintings to the people of Spain. The collection is now a museum, the Museo Sorolla, in the artist's house in Madrid.