Sorolla reconquers America | Entertainment | The USA Print

Sorolla reconquers America

History repeats itself a little more than a century later. “We brought it to New York almost incognito (…) The artists saw it as an invasion. People continually had the words ‘sunshine’ in their mouths. Nothing like this had ever happened in New York. The oohs! and ahh! The tiles on the ground were fogged up and the cars were clogging the streets (…) And in the middle of it all, there was our little creator, overwhelmed but not conceited, while I translated the waves of enthusiasm from the press for him,” wrote magnate Archer H. Huntington in a letter addressed to his mother, regarding Sorolla’s great landing in 1909 in New York. The exhibition, which inaugurated, in Harlem, the Hispanic Society of America created by Huntington himself, had unleashed delirium. In just 38 days it was visited by 160,000 people, becoming the most popular that had ever been experienced in the city of skyscrapers. The painter drove Americans crazy for his treatment of light, his beauty and his optimism, the same reasons why he would not long later fall into disgrace, crushed by the avant-garde. But after the eclipse of decades, the light of Sorolla once again illuminates American private collections.

One of the rooms of the

Aspect of one of the rooms of the Meadows Museum that houses the exhibition ‘The Light of Spain. Sorolla in American collections’

Paloma Hiranda

The Meadows Museum in Dallas, the great reference center for Spanish art in the United States, also called The meadow of the meadow to (a play on words that alludes to the Spanish translation of his name) joins the Sorolla year with an exhibition, The light of Spain. Sorolla in American collections (from September 17 to January 7), which brings together thirty works, some of which were acquired following that first great landing by the Valencian painter and had never or very rarely left the domestic sphere. Before the arrival of Picasso, Sorolla was the most successful painter in the United States and he was able to enjoy it while he lived.

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Naked Museum from the Back, Rome, 1886, by Sorolla

Naked Museum from the Back, Rome, 1886, by Sorolla

Glen C. Cheriton

“You already understand what my desire is, to make my way outside of Spain,” I longed for at the age of 30. The artist saw before him the wasteland that Spain offered to artists like him. He knew the world was much bigger and he wanted to eat it. From that first major exhibition, and those that same year he held in Boston and Buffalo, he sold more than 300 paintings. And on his subsequent visit in 1911, the line to sit for him was so long (he had 54 commissions, including that of President William Howard Taft), that many of those portraits were already finished in Spain.

The painter, who drove Americans crazy at the beginning of the 20th century, revives the collecting boom

But when he died in 1923, after three years without having touched a brush due to a stroke, interest in his work had plummeted. The gale of the avant-garde, the aftermath of World War I and the subsequent Crash of ’29 suddenly made those who had revered his painting begin to see it as conservative and superficial,” according to historian Cristina Domenech, author of a study on its reception. criticism and its fluctuations of his work in the United States included in the catalog that accompanies the Dallas exhibition. Many collectors then got rid of their Sorollas, who found refuge in Spain. Others have preserved them from generation to generation. And in the last decade, its popularity has been restored thanks to large international exhibitions – the last one, at the National Gallery in 2019 – that have returned it to the pantheon of the greats, new collectors are emerging who, when it was already considered lost, are making revive the old idyll.

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'Elenita dressed as Menina'

‘Elenita dressed as Menina’, 1903, by Joaquín Sorolla



‘Children bathing among the rocks, Jávea’, 1906, acquired in 2020


“He said [Sorolla] that the light of New York was similar to that of Madrid and for him being in that city was like being at home,” recalls the great-granddaughter and great student of the artist’s work Blanca Pons-Sorolla, curator of the exhibition. It is not the first time that the Meadows has dedicated an exhibition of the Valencian painter. But different from Sorolla and America (2013), which was visited by 30,000 people and then traveled to San Diego and Madrid ( Mapfre Foundation) around the paintings that the painter made or sold in that countryonly Huntington , his great patron, bought more than 150 works for the Hispanic Society – this new review focuses only on those that have remained in private hands.


‘Naked Woman’, 1902, by Joaquín Sorolla. A portrait of his wife, Clotilde, inspired by ‘Venus in the Mirror’ by Velázquez

Paloma Hiranda

Pons-Sorolla’s face lights up when he sees authentic gems like The white boat , one of the seven canvases in the collection of the great flamenco patron Cristina Heeren Noble, which had been bought by her family in 1905 and her first heiress kept it locked up in her house for forty years. In the rooms of the Meadows there are scenes of sun-drenched beaches, children playing on the shore, lush gardens and portraits, some of the painter’s family, almost always in the form of a nod to Velázquez (“although affectionate and communicative, Velázquez makes you serious and in a bad mood, what a colossus, that’s the best thing in the world,” said the Valencian), including a nude of his wife Clotilde passed through The Venus of the mirror which, although property of the family, is in storage in the Texan museum. But without a doubt one of the biggest surprises is the portrait of his daughter Elenita dressed as Menina acquired by an American collector in 2020, whose identity and the price he paid for it are unknown (Sorolla has reached 5.3 million euros at auction).

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Facade of Meadows Museum presided over by a sculpture by Jaume Plensa

Paloma Hiranda

The oilman who created a small Prado in Texas

At the head of the General American Oil Company, the magnate and collector Algur H. Meadows (1899-1978) traveled to Madrid in the 1950s to supervise the oil prospecting that the company was carrying out in Spain. From the Ritz hotel where he stayed with wife Virginia Stuart Garrison, he made numerous incursions to the Prado Museum, where he fell in love with Spanish art. Shortly after, he created the Meadows, the mini Prado of Texas, where works by El Greco, Goya, Murillo, Velázquez, Ribera, Fortuny, Sorolla, Picasso, Juan Gris, Miró, Tàpies, Plensa and Barceló appear.

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Oblivious to the changes in tastes and the fluctuations of the market, one of the families that always remained faithful to Sorolla were the Fanjul Gómez Mena, owners of one of the most important sugar industries in Cuba in the fifties, whose collection, the most important in quantity and quality in the United States, was confiscated by Fidel Castro after the 1959 revolution. It has never stopped buying and even recovered seized works, such as Malaga Castle and fishing port which is now being exhibited in Dallas, a city where, mind you, 26 billionaires reside.

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