Thursday, September 27, 2007

Travelogue: Casa Sorolla, Madrid

A year ago I was living in Andalucia, along the Costa del Sol in Spain. I don’t blog about my travels themselves much, partially because it seems a bit too…personal? As in, purely about me rather than what I do, that art thing that I imagine brings my two readers to this blog. Mentions are usually made in reference to my work. In any case, while Southern Spain may be a great place to paint, it’s a little short on jaw-dropping museums. While there are architectural wonders aplenty in places like Granada and Seville, you have to really get up north to see a lot of great painting.

Up north, one of those places is the Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida house/museum in Madrid. Some years ago, on a trip to Madrid, I tried to get out to see this. I made the trek only to find it was closed that day. I was pretty sad, and schedule did not allow another attempt. So while living down south, I was acutely aware that I was still too far to make it to the Sorolla house without making it an expensive trip for the purpose, yet still tantalizingly close.

As we prepared to leave Spain we came upon a schedule that had us flying out of Madrid, and we realized that if we did our bus trip up there the night before we’d have a few hours before our flight to rush on down and see it. And that’s exactly what we did.

At the time I was more familiar with Sorolla’s art than his life, but it was a sign of success for him to have such a large and gorgeous home within Madrid, coming as he did from the much humbler Valencia.

It is always a treat to visit the home of a great painter, particularly when the home has been preserved and made into a museum. Seeing the works of the artist within the space they were created in, along with furnishings and random household items is like a time-warp. His studio was still set up with many of the original furnishings, including his taboret and some tubes of paint. Paintings lined the walls, including a ton of smaller studies. It was the ideal way to view an artist’s work—the art where it was made, the life where it was lived. When I’ve been able to, I’ve always sought out artists’ homes since a number of them have been preserved and turned into museums.

Possibly my favorite Sorolla. It's not in Madrid though, but in Venice where I was pleasantly surprised to run into it. It's nice and big.

Sorolla’s work came at a time when many of my favorite painters lived. While I would not put Sorolla in my top 10 of all-time, he was unquestionably one of the greatest colorists, ever. His ability to capture the effects of light and color, along with his friends John Singer Sargent and Anders Zorn, by rights should have kept the spotlight instead of the three Impressionists we know—Monet, Renoir, Degas—maintaining as they did impressive drawing and marrying it to formidable painting and a capturing of natural light and color without necessarily overplaying their hand.

If you find yourself in Madrid and like painting, Casa Sorolla comes highly recommended.