Home Books, Arts, StageExhibitions & Art History Sorolla an Impressionnist painter, exhibition now in Aix-en-Provence

Sorolla an Impressionnist painter, exhibition now in Aix-en-Provence

by Pétra Wauters

After the end of the stay home order, the Hôtel de Caumont in Aix en Provence invites us to light with an exhibition dedicated to the Spanish impressionist painter Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923), from July 10 to November 1.

It is a favorite exhibit. A jubilant event of what will be considered the greatest “Spanish impressionist“, a term that the artist will reject, moreover. And yet, Monet himself will describe him as the “Master of Light,” said María López Fernández, exhibition curator.

Joaquín Sorolla, Le retour de pêche, 1904, huile sur toile, 45 x 74,3 cm, Musei di Nervi – Raccolte Frugone, Photo : © Armando Pastorino

Obviously, the Spanish artist from Valence works in the manner of the Impressionists: open-air subjects, family themes, the quest for light in “snapshots”, canvases with very innovative framing too, themselves influenced by the techniques of photography which he will feel close to. Didn’t he marry the daughter of his friend Antonio Garcia, renowned photographer? Photography is part of his life.

Undoubtedly, there is also Goya and Velázquez in him, obvious influences notably in the portraits that he realizes. “Here in Spain, he is known as the great painter of the Mediterranean, a painter well anchored in the Spanish tradition, who knew how to adapt his art to modernity,” said María López Fernández.
The artist’s first exhibition in France was presented at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris in 1906. A beautiful tribute was paid to him in Giverny in 2016, at the Museum of the Impressionists near the house and gardens of Monet whom he admired .
And this Caumont exhibition lacked cultural scarcity this summer. It’s fortunate that it could be maintained.

A fairy tale !

We stick to his story, that of a poor young orphan who will make a fortune. A deserved fortune and success. “The tireless and almost obsessive nature of his work allows us to analyze the way in which Sorolla developed his most personal style which led him to fame. María López Fernández will tell us again.

“In Spain he is as famous as Beyoncé! Sorolla wanted to become an international painter. Good start in Paris for the artist. A work will be acquired by the state and exhibited at the Musée du Luxembourg, “said the art historian. He won several prizes, including the grand prize of the 1900 World Fair. He was a millionaire, but spent all his money on the family, on the education of his family, on travel… and he also built a superb house in Madrid, his workshop, and dreamed already at the time, of installing his future museum there.

Sorolla, Le filet, 1898, huile sur toile, 50 x 69 cm, Museo Universidad de Navarra © Manuel Castell / Universidad de Navarra


A place for those who have had the chance to visit the painter’s house. The whole universe of the painter is gathered there and one literally enters the intimacy of this tireless artist. A house that looks like him, surprising, so warm. You have to cross a pretty garden to access it.
And the gardens of Sorolla, exhibition curator María López Fernández know them well. She, who wrote numerous catalogs of Sorolla’s work and curated several exhibitions “Sorolla garden of light, Sorolla a garden to paint, and many more …

Themes to dream of which gradually move away from naturalism: seascapes, boats, fishing boats, children playing in the water, bathing on the beach, light and reflections, family, through incredible perspectives that bring to light relief shade and light.

Joaquín Sorolla, Sur le sable, plage de Zarautz, 1910, huile sur toile, 99 x 125 cm, Museo Sorolla, inv. 00888 © Fotografias Museo Sorolla, Madrid

We linger “On the sand, Zarautz beach“: to tell the truth the family is complete, there is no room for us as the framing is tight. And yet, we enter the intimacy of this peaceful scene. Women sew or read, children wisely sit next to them. Some wear a straw hat to protect themselves from the blinding hot sun.

There are many women in the artist’s work, because the woman is the main character whom he sublimates with happiness. He crunched them all. In pole position Clotilde, his wife, whom he adored. “Letters testify to this unfailing love,” confirms María López Fernández who adds with humor, that he will paint his family and especially his wife, much more beautiful than she was. He has loved his wife all his life.

La famille 1901, huile sur toile 185 x 159 cm. Muséo de la Ciudad de Valencia, Ayuntamiento de Valencia

The painter feels a deep fervor towards the one he will study throughout his life: Velázquez. Above a tribute to the Master, through “Les Ménines“. We also discover a photo of Sorolla’s stepfather, Antonio Garcia, taken at the same time.

Antonio Garcia Peris, Joaquin Sorolla, sa femme et ses enfants.
Muséo Sorolla, Madrid. 

Is there carelessness or well-being in Sorolla’s gaze, in her painting of the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century? Not always. Even if we discover here a joyful and positive exhibition, a hymn to life, where light and colors, essential to his work, spread in all the rooms.

Indeed, all painters seek this quest for light. Many find it. To each his own shall we say. And that of Sorolla bewitch us. Is light alone the cause of our glare? No, there is something else behind it. Quasi-physical, intense sensations, because behind the “luminist”, there is the emotion of the painter in front of the subjects he cherishes. To say nothing of the states of mind, the deep feelings, the loving husband, the dad, the nature lover he shares with us. The artist is second to none to dwell on reflections in the water and make us want to immerse ourselves entirely in it. It suddenly takes us a desire for beach, baths, contemplation. “Nothing is still in what surrounds us,” he wrote.


What we still like in this exhibition is discovering the artist’s drawings, works rarely exhibited. Total, independent works, and in no case preparatory to large formats. “They are of course related to the major paintings, but it is above all a way of appropriating the colors and the landscape, the subject“, specifies the curator of the exhibition.

Maria sur la plage de Biarritz ou contre-jour. Biarritz 1906
Huile sur toile 63 X 92 cm, Muséo Sorolla, Madrid

We are still discovering great sketches of children. Everything seems easy and spontaneous. “Thousands of sheets bear witness to the work of these studies of children of all running ages jumping on the beach. Anatomical studies, movement studies, everything is scrutinized by his expert and curious gaze. He commented himself: I have just arrived, I am doing my vocalizations
He had to “warm up” in some way with making the sketches. His sketches and studies allow him to grasp his paintings with the freshness of a sketch will confirm María López Fernández.

Bain sur la plage 1908  Huile sur toile 77 x 105 cm, Muséo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid. 


The artist confided: “My studies in the open air do not support a long execution. I feel that if I had to paint slowly, I could not paint at all ”.

A study of a perfect mom and baby. “Now is when my hand completely obeys my retina and my emotions
These beach views bear witness to this.

“Whenever possible, I paint things where they are and the people in their environment, in their environment; this is the only way to make them appear as they really are in a painting, in a natural and intimate way rather than as if they were in an artificial frame. «  All is said !

Exhibition Joaquin Sorolla
Lumière espagnoles

Hôtel de Caumont –  Centre d’Art3 rue Joseph Cabassol. 13100 Aix-en-Provence
Le Café Caumont vous accueille depuis le 10 juin.
Safety measures due to Covid 19: Afin de garantir votre sécurité, des modalités spéciales de visites sont prévues. En savoir plus

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