Joaquín Sorolla was a painter who could capture movement, light and the brightness of his Spanish sunlight and sea water like no other. If he lived today he would make a fortune just from prints of his translucent works.
He excelled in the painting of people by the sea, portraits, landscapes, and monumental works of social and historical themes. He was on a par with the likes of Singer Sargent and could be regarded as his Spanish equivalent.
Born in Valencia in 1863 he and his sister were orphaned when their parents died and were cared for by their maternal aunt and uncle. At twenty-two Sorolla obtained a grant which enabled a four-year term to study painting in Rome but was heavily influenced by the likes of Jules Bastien-Lepage in Paris. In 1888, Sorolla returned to Valencia, married and produced large works aimed salons and international exhibitions. His picture The Return from Fishing (1894) was much admired at the Paris Salon and was acquired by the state.
His painting Sad Inheritance (1899), was a depiction of crippled children bathing at the sea in Valencia, under the supervision of a monk, earned Sorolla his greatest official recognition, the Grand Prix and a medal of honour at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, and the medal of honor at the National Exhibition in Madrid in 1901. Within the next few years Sorolla was honoured as a member of the Fine Art Academies of Paris, Lisbon and Valencia, and as a Favourite Son of Valencia.
A special exhibition of his works, figure subjects, landscapes and portraits, in Paris in 1906 eclipsed all his earlier successes and led to his appointment as Officer of the Legion of Honour. The show included nearly 500 works, early paintings as well as recent sun-drenched beach scenes, landscapes, and portraits, a productivity which amazed critics and was a financial triumph.
Sorolla's work is often exhibited together with that of his contemporaries and friends, Singer Sargent and Zorn. Whilst painting Sorolla suffered a stroke in 1920, while painting a portrait in his garden in Madrid. Paralyzed for over three years, he died on 10 August 1923.