Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sorolla returns to Valencia

I was determined to see the Sorolla exhibition once again on its return to Valencia, the last stop before the paintings are returned to their rightful home in the Hispanic Society of New York. This marvellous exhibition has been all over Spain, starting and ending here in Valencia but visiting Sevilla, Málaga, Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid on the way and becoming a record breaker as the most visited Art exhibition in Spain with over two million visitors.

A clever friend rang me to tell me that as we were clients of Bancaja, the exhibition organisers we could have priority booking (entrance is free but only a limited number of people are allowed in at any one time and though you can turn up on spec, the queues are likely to be very long) so we got a time slot for Monday and met six friends there to see the show. Anyone who lives in Valencia or visits regularly cannot fail to know a little about this artist, his pictures crop up on posters and adverts all over the city- he is, after all one of Valencia's three favourite sons, along with Blasco Ibañez and Calatrava.

The exhibition consists mainly of the enormous panels he was commissioned by the Hispanic Society depicting life throughout his homeland of Spain painted in the latter years of his life, between 1890 and 1915. It is said that these paintings exhausted him and contributed to his stroke the year following their completion.

It is quite an experience seeing an exhibition with so many people. It is fascinating to realize that we all take different things from a work, what I found in one picture T would see something else, B spotted another aspect, or a piece left Th cold and was inspirational to D...Sorrollas work is extraordinary, apart from the sheer enormity of the pieces, (One is over 17m long), the way he captures light with a few brush strokes is fantastic.

I have two favorite panels, one was the 'Grupas' (actually a Valencian piece), a wonderful party of orange pickers and their families on horses riding through the groves. My other has to be the largest of the panoramic panels entitled 'Castilla- la Fiesta de Pan', it is a scene typical even today of a summer fiesta, the detail is extraordinary, the children and costumes beautiful, faces so alive, and baskets of ceramics so real you feel you could touch them.

On show for the first time in Valencia are two other wonderful paintings; the gorgeous 'Afternoon Sun' and the sweet image of two children playing on the shore 'Sea idyll'. Also on display is what is probably Sorolla's most famous work 'Triste Herencia' a moving painting of crippled children playing in the sea, a painting which earned Sorolla the Grand Prix and a medal of Honour at the Universal Exhibition in Paris 1900.

It is worth queuing to see this exhibition, the last time it was here in Valencia it proved so popular that it remained open 24 hours a day in its final weeks. Get there early to see this remarkable work.

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