Sorolla Museum – Madrid, Spain

Jocelyn Murray October 18, 2018 No Comments

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A visit to Madrid’s Sorolla Museum almost feels like visiting the house of a dear old friend. Perhaps that may be due to the fact that this museum was once the actual home of artist Joaquin Sorolla up until his death in 1923. There is something very intimate and inviting about the structure, with its hardwood floors, warmly painted walls in varying shades of terracotta, ochre and cream, plush elegant furniture and lofty ceilings. It possesses a certain warmth and familiarity that sets one immediately at ease.

I visited this museum on my own during a cold winter day lit by a frosty sun whose hazy light filtered through the tall windows of the artist’s distinguished old home. While it was cold outside, the artwork, décor and style of the old home enveloped me in a kind of atmospheric romance and coziness.

Joaquin Sorolla met with a number of successes during his life. His was not the struggling, impoverished life of many artists at the time. He was even nominated as Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1900, and earned several medals of honor at exhibitions. His work – mostly portraits and landscapes – is known for its luminous quality that appears to glow from within. My personal favorites are his paintings by the sea and on the beach. They seem most alive, most beautiful, even capturing the essence of joy in a moment which cannot really be described; it can only be glimpsed and felt.

Take Walk on the Beach, for instance. The two female subjects in the painting are his wife on the left, and his daughter on the right. They were captured in a seemingly unguarded moment as they strolled by the seashore. The women’s dresses billow softly in the breeze, reflecting a brilliant white in the sun. There is something elegant and graceful in their poses, a certain rapture depicted in the luminous hues of the work.

Then there is The Horse’s Bath. The horse, in typical Sorollan style, is an unblemished white. The boy leading him out of the water by a rope is also unblemished and luminous, bathed in a sheen of water which catches the light of the sun. The sand, the sea, and the sailboats in the background all bring this piece to life. I can almost picture myself there, feeling the sun’s warmth on my skin, hearing the water gently lapping at the shore.

Here is a self-portrait of the artist depicted in full-beard. I would have preferred him clean-shaven, but understand that it would have been easier not to shave daily, as it would free up more time for his work. Joaquin Sorolla himself was an interesting man. He was physically attractive with something intense in his expression. I especially like studying the artist through his work, as it seems to hint at the depth of the man’s soul and the beauty dwelling there.

Every room in the museum serves as a reminder of the home’s gracious origins. There are large drawing rooms, elegant parlors and cozy sitting rooms, complete with furniture that beckons one to sit a moment and ponder the surroundings. As I moved from room to room, I almost fancied an impeccably dressed footman suddenly appearing at my side with a service tray.

“A cup of tea, my lady, or perhaps a glass of champagne?” he would say with a slight bow.

And I, startled at his sudden appearance, but hiding it well, would hesitate only momentarily as I glanced at the tray. The champagne is certainly enticing, but I’d rather be perfectly lucid before taking the subway and walking the rest of the way back to my flat from here. So I incline my head, and gratefully accept the cup of tea with a soft smile, “thank you, sir.”

Ah, if only in my imagination. But yes, this museum inspires such thoughts from this writer. It is worth a visit any time of the year, but perhaps more so on a cold, dreary day with few visitors around, so you can feel as though you are a special guest, and you have the old house all to yourself. It’s the best way to immerse yourself in the sublimity of his work.

For more information visit Sorolla Museum.

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Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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