by Gabriele Finaldi. Yale University Press, May 2019. 264p. ill. ISBN 9781857096422 (h/c), $40.00.
Reviewed September 2019
Lindsay King, Associate Director for Access and Research Services, Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University, firstname.lastname@example.org
This catalog to the 2019 exhibition at the National Gallery, London, and the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, in collaboration with the Museo Sorolla in Madrid, adds a major publication to recent scholarship on Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) and his somewhat-neglected context: Spanish realist painting between Goya and Picasso. Several exhibitions and monographs in the past fifteen years attest to renewed interest in Sorolla, and the authors of this volume approach his work and milieu from diverse perspectives.
Like his contemporaries John Singer Sargent, Ramon Casas, and Anders Zorn, Sorolla was an internationally renowned figure who painted glamorous portraits of aristocrats, artists, and his own family, as well as sympathetic social realist images of everyday people, with brushwork informed by both Velázquez and the Impressionists. Born in Valencia, he studied art in Madrid and Rome, and exhibited widely, gaining accolades at prestigious international exhibitions, such as the Medal of Honor at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition for Another Marguerite! and the Grand Prix for Sad Inheritance! at Paris’s 1900 Universal Exhibition. His reputation attracted the patronage of Archer Milton Huntington, who collected a number of Sorolla’s works and commissioned him to paint the Visions of Spain murals for the Hispanic Society of America, which Huntington founded in 1904.
The 2019 exhibition examines Sorolla’s work in the context of Spanish tradition and pictorial subjects (for example, his Spanish landscapes and seascapes) and its reception by international audiences. Following the themes of the exhibition, the catalog reproduces paintings in full color with short curatorial essays on each, as well as historical photographs depicting the artist at work, and beautiful full-page details from selected works. The artist’s great-granddaughter Blanca Pons-Sorolla, author of several books about him, contributed the chronology of Sorolla’s life. Scholarly essays are by Gabriele Finaldi, Javier Barón Thaidigsmann, Véronique Gerard Powell, Oliver Tostmann, and Christopher Riopelle, the curator of the exhibition at the National Gallery in London. Brendan Rooney curated the exhibition at the National Gallery of Ireland. A bibliography, index, notes and credits conclude the book.
Several other titles from the past decade cover overlapping aspects of Sorolla’s life and career. Sorolla and the Paris Years (Rizzoli, 2016) and Sorolla in America (Meadows Museum, 2015) are the most similar to this newest exhibition catalog and feature additional scholarly material. These different curatorial perspectives on Sorolla’s work are all worth inclusion in an academic or museum library. Well-illustrated and accessibly written, Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light is suitable for non-specialist readers and could serve as an appealing overview of Sorolla’s career for undergraduate audiences and up